Changing Lives S & P, Inc.Program Description
Changing Lives S & P, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization located in the heart of Columbus, Georgia. Since 2016, Changing Lives Youth Foster Care Homes has been serving the at-risk and underprivileged youth of Columbus and its surrounding communities. A home away from home, we provide residential care to males, ages 12-18 years old, who have suffered sexual and physical abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or who have been incarcerated within the Georgia Juvenile System.
To date, Changing Lives has served over 50 males in the state of Georgia. We are a provider with the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Changing Lives is licensed by the Office of Residential Child Care and is inspected on an annual basis. We receive referrals from DFCS and DJJ. We currently do not provide any private pay services.
At Changing Lives, we also work with our community partners, which include the Department of Juvenile Justice, to help the offenders redirect their lives and the victims rebuild their lives, and Goodwill Industries, which help provide employment opportunities for individuals as they integrate to their positive way of life.
Changing Lives has the capacity to serve a total of 13 young men within our 2 homes. Our homes serve as both a short-term and long-term residence, based on the needs of our youth. Youth who reside in our homes benefit from the following services: Room, board and watchful oversight, program tutoring, behavior modification, anger management, behavioral therapy, substance abuse counseling, life skills training, recreational and sporting activities, sex education, individual and group counseling, job/employment education, community support services, proper medical and dental care, and experienced and caring staff.
Changing Lives is governed by a Board of Directors who provides strategic direction for our organization and is committed to meeting the needs of youth in our community.
We are committed to changing the lives of at-risk youth for the better, educating them about structure and providing them therapy. It is our duty to enable our younger generation to lead successful lives, building future leaders who might otherwise never get the chance to fulfill their true potential.
Changing Lives fulfills our mission by providing a safe, nurturing, and positive environment that prepares youth to return to their community.
- With the right life tools, youth can be resilient, despite their life circumstances;
- Everybody deserves a chance in life, most especially our younger generation;
- It is our duty to rebuild the lives of our underprivileged and at-risk youth, giving them a chance at a future where their hopes and dreams can become a reality;
- People can overcome their obstacles and success can be experienced by everyone;
With the necessary educational supports, youth will succeed academically.
Our Community Partners
Our community partners are committed to supporting Changing Lives by providing services to our youth. These services include community service opportunities, counseling, medical/dental exam, food, recreational opportunities, and client referrals. Changing Lives’s continuous success is due to the help of our community partners.
- The Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS)
- Pathway to Hope Counseling Services
- Muscogee County School District
- Columbus Technical College
- Valley Healthcare
- KoolSmiles Dentistry
- Zoe’s Pediatric
- Rivertown Psychiatric
- Open Gate Pharmacy
- Feeding the Valley Food Bank
- Midland Lodge #144
- The Department of Public Health
- Department of Driver Services
- The USDA Food and Nutrition Program
For many youth, the loss or breakdown of the family structure can cause tremendous suffering. Changing Lives provides the necessary structure and guidance to assist youth in working through their pain and rebuilding their lives. Our staff is present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We develop tailored individual treatment plans and goals to address each youth’s needs. Our staff emphasizes the importance of self-discipline, provides encouragement and acts as role models for appropriate behaviors. Through positive and consistent interactions, our staff assists the youth to develop responsibility, self-management, and leadership skills and to eliminate risky behaviors.
Providing a family-oriented structure is an essential element of our program. Each home is decorated with comfortable and appealing furnishings. The youth are given responsibilities, are expected to be active participants within the home, and are expected to show consideration for the other residents. Further, our staff works with the youth on establishing boundaries of respect for themselves and others. Daily activities are provided that reflect the youths’ interests and allow opportunities to work on their goals. The house responsibilities and activities help foster a sense of community and provide opportunities for contribution. Such tasks are done in the mornings after eating breakfast. The evenings are spent engaging in a variety of age-appropriate activities that include community group activities and skill building classes in different areas. Our staff assists the youth in activities that teach self-care, life skills, money management, cooking, proper hygiene practices, and home maintenance. The youth develop lifelong skills and build responsibility for themselves and their environment.
Changing Lives provides assistance in planning and preparing nutritionally balanced meals in collaboration with house residents. This includes preparation of special diets geared toward weight loss, healthy living, and proper nutrition. Changing Lives also provides support and guidance with medication management.
Changing Lives provides community outings for recreational pleasure and for fostering a sense of community inclusion and normalcy. Outing selections reflect the interests and wishes of our youth. Our staff provides supervision and guidance while the youth have fun and connect with their peers. With a focus on the wellbeing of the whole person, our program helps instill self-worth, build character, and promote a positive outlook of the future.
Changing Lives believes that education is paramount in building a better life. The majority of our youth attend Muscogee County School District schools, while others attend Columbus Technical College for GED training. Our staff works with the youth daily to ensure their academic success. Changing Lives receives assistance from the Title One Program, which provides after-school tutoring throughout the school year and a part of summer through the Muscogee County School District.
Many of the youth that come to Changing Lives may be experiencing sadness, depression, anger, and/or many other emotions. Counseling services are provided for the youth by Pathway to Hope Counseling Services. When a youth becomes a resident, a referral is sent to the Pathway to Hope. A therapist will visit the youth within 24 hours to conduct an assessment and determine counseling needs. Additionally, each home is assigned a therapist, two paraprofessionals, a community support worker, and a behavior aide (as needed). Group and individual therapy sessions are provided in the home. Each youth receives an hour of individual therapy a week and as well as group therapy and community support services. The counseling services are contracted via Amerigroup Families 360 program, licensed and regulated by the Department of Community Health. In counseling sessions, the youth are able to work through issues, such as anger, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and maladaptive behaviors. Through counseling services, mentoring relationships, and positive interactions, therapists and staff help the youth develop coping, problem-solving, and decision-making skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Changing Lives is currently pursuing accreditation by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) in group home care.
Changing Lives’s administrative office is located at 3575 Macon Rd. Suite # 25. Home 1 is located at 974 Sistrunk Court and Home 2 is located at 7763 Fortson Rd. Changing Lives is defined as “a non-secure residential program emphasizing a family style living in a home like atmosphere”. Both homes operate as a community-based group home, which is a congregate care housing model for young people 18 years old and under. The youth share bedrooms and communal living spaces and are required to participate in structured daily activities that include meal times, recreational activities, educational components, life skills, and therapeutic services.
Our group homes have shared living spaces with staff taking the primary role in cooking and housekeeping. We use existing community services but also provide supervision by caring staff members who are scheduled on shifts to cover a full 24 hours/ 7 days a week, but do not live on site. Changing Lives provides young men a stable home and family-like environment while fostering connections with dedicated and caring staff.
The Changing Lives Approach
Changing Lives employs a trauma-focused care model to youth care which is steeped in our staff intentionally building trusting and caring relationships with the youth and their families. This model of care was implemented in 2017, and our youth have thrived in our setting.
Trauma is a response to an upsetting event or troubling circumstance in a child’s life, such as community and domestic violence, abuse, neglect, accidents, or the loss of a parent or caregiver. Without proper intervention and treatment, children who experience and witness trauma face life-long physical, mental, behavioral, and emotional health problems, which in turn affect their school work, social lives, families, and communities. Many youth in our population have experienced significant trauma before entering our homes.
We understand that children exposed to trauma have a high propensity to engage in health risk behaviors, such as suicide, eating disorders, risky sexual behaviors, violence against others, and drug use/abuse. Our model ensures staff remains educated on the prevalence of trauma, how to acknowledge the impact of trauma on children now and later in life, and how to provide the services and skills necessary to meet the needs of traumatized children. Proper and ongoing intervention, assessment, and treatment are paramount in reducing the impact of trauma and increasing children’s overall mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Our trauma-focused strategies include:
- Educating staff on the prevalence of childhood trauma, how trauma affects children and their environments, and recognizing signs and symptoms of trauma exposure
- Ensuring adequate screening occurs at intake, appropriate counseling, and other service needs are met and implemented early and often
- Remaining diligent in working with youth to build and create more secure relationships and increase and enhance coping skills
- Working closely with our community partners to ensure a robust system of support and to minimize any gaps in services
- Ensuring quality continued health care services to monitor physical and psychological health and improve overall health-related functioning
Our services are also predicated upon shared leadership and self-help. Our family-oriented model emphasizes personal accountability and is effective at breaking the traditional “helper/helpee” relationship. The youth begin to take responsibility for changing their own lives. Our environment enables participants to set personal goals as well as share their frustrations and experiences. Additionally, group interactions are designed to promote self-esteem, teach nonviolent resolution skills, and improve social behavior and family relationships.
We provide/ ensure:
- Highly trained professional care providers
- Experienced and well-trained direct care staff trained in non-violent crisis intervention and behavior modification
- Enhanced and individualized educational opportunities
- Enrichment opportunities, such as driver’s education
- Community service and therapeutic recreation
- Leadership development opportunities
- Positive peer culture groups
- Support resources
- An active voice and role for youth to participate in their planning and future
Organizational and Program Goals
In May 2013, Governor Nathan Deal signed Georgia’s massive juvenile justice reform legislation. The goal of this legislation is to reduce recidivism among youth and costs of detaining low-risk offenders. The reform supported more substance abuse and mental health counseling and permitted the use of local community-based outreach programs rather than detention centers for non-violent juvenile offenders.
Changing Lives has three goals:
Reduce the number of youth that return to criminal behaviors.
Changing Lives strives to help the youth become productive members of our society by teaching them coping skills and increasing their decision-making and conflict resolution abilities. Our youth learn to solve conflicts nonviolently and to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.
Increase the capacity of our youth to enter into independent living or to transition back home to their families.
Changing Lives supports the safe and healthy reunification of our youth with their families. While the youth are in our care, Changing Lives works with caseworkers and other support professionals to facilitate healthy and appropriate communication with families.
Provide qualified professionals who are experienced in child care, recognize and understand trauma, and possess a strong knowledge base of the population we served.
Changing Lives employs and trains staff members who are committed to providing quality care and enriching experiences for our youth. Changing Lives provides an initial and ongoing training program relevant to our population and its characteristics. We seek individuals who are service-oriented and want to help change the lives of our youth for the better.
After Hours/ Emergency Contacts
The following staff is available 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week:
- Chief Executive OfficerVictor Pernell706.570.8419
- Executive DirectorCurtis Stephens706-888-8522
- DirectorMorgan Bryant706.940.9881