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NRTA's 13th Annual With Our Youth Awards

IMPACT AWARD

Louisiana – Dr. Carol Christopher

Tireless in her efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect, Carol Christopher’s mantra has and will always be, “Whatever it takes, if it is legal, moral and affordable”.  

Christopher has volunteered an average of 40 hours per week and helped over 3,000 teens and young adults find help, hope and a safe harbor. Her crusade to protect abused and victimized youth is not confined to the northern parishes of Louisiana. In June 1999, her four year effort culminated with the signing of House Bill 1178, Safe Harbor for Youth, into law. The law provides 72 hours of sanctuary for non-offending runaways at licensed youth facilities, and mandates that shelters notify parents of their child’s whereabouts. During this cooling off period, efforts are made to counsel families and encourage understanding and improved relationships. The family reunification success rate is 95percent!


Always working to improve local services, Christopher has forged collaborative relationships with the Office of Community Services, the District Attorney’s Adolescent Diversion Program, area school systems, and the Region VII Coalition for Homeless Advocacy and Prevention, and is a member of the National Safe Place Advisory Board. At Northeast Louisiana University, she provided countless internships and volunteer opportunities for students in the human service departments. When a youth in crisis is feeling helpless, desperate or frightened, it is imperative to reach him before he produces dangerous, destructive, or illegal behavior. For youth, immediate help is necessary. Finding that way to provide help was solved when Christopher found out about the National Safe Place, a program that had a protocol in place to train volunteers to answer the call for help at designated locations, such as fire halls, displaying the Safe Place logo. Youth learn about the program through school presentations, through the agency web site (www.teen-help.com) and Facebook.  

Often youth had nowhere to go and needed shelter.  In 1994, Christopher established Our House, Inc., a shelter for runaway and troubled youth. The shelter is unique in Louisiana for it encourages self-referral for these homeless, neglected, and victimized youth. Consequently, a youth may seek help at a Safe Place location or come directly to the shelter to receive food, clothing, tutoring, individual, group, and family counseling. Being an educator, Christopher always strives to provide opportunities for the youth to succeed in the classroom. Our House relies solely on grants, donations, and volunteer efforts. Consequently, Christopher provides a sizeable annual contribution and regularly purchases small extras to celebrate client achievement.
 
In addition to the shelter for boys and girls ages 13-17, Christopher spearheaded the Transitional Living Program for young adults ages 18-22. These young people receive housing while they complete their education. Job training, life skills classes and family counseling are made available to help them become responsible and caring adults. Parenting classes are required for all and are especially helpful for the program’s pregnant young women to learn to provide a healthy start for their babies and young children.  

The words of one grateful mother could represent the sentiments of many parents when she said, “The way I look at it, Dr. Christopher and Our House saved my daughter’s life.” Christopher has devoted her life to provide the foundation for services that assist frightened, at-risk children and youth to overcome daunting situations, become brave and obtain tools for success in the future.

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