A boy named Hank

Hank, 17, had only been a resident at the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter for 10 days, but he was loved already by the other residents and direct care staff. Respectful, caring, and bright, it was hard not to like him immediately. Sadly, Hank was in the shelter for the same reason as many others: he had been abused and needed support.

After an incident with their alcoholic grandfather, his family became homeless. Because of stress and financial struggles, Hank’s mother “fell off the wagon,” and his situation became abusive. Child Protective Services placed Hank with his biological father, but when his father abandoned him, Hank decided to set off on his own.

Advocates for Children is a non-profit organization that is committed to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Founded as a children’s shelter in 1983, Advocates for Children has since expanded and now includes eight different programs across eleven counties. 

The mission of the organization is “To strengthen our community of families by offering safety, comfort and hope to children and preventing child abuse in all its forms.” If you would like to learn more about Advocates for Children or how to get involved in these upcoming events, contact Renee Shields, Development Director, at renee@advochild.org.

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Hank couched surfed and stayed in hotels on his own for a while, but after the emergency housing funding ran out, his social worker reached out to the Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter. When Hank first arrived at the shelter, he was behind on 148 school assignments. 

“Being on my own in hotels was great at first, but after a while talking to the walls just didn’t cut it anymore. I had plenty of time to do my schoolwork, but I fell into a deep depression.” After only four days and with the help of the shelter’s education director, Hank completed 107 assignments.

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Since becoming a resident, Hank has been connected to mental health services, learned how to create a resume and budget, and cooked a meal for the shelter residents. He said that one of the best things about being at the shelter was going from eating one meal a day to eating a hearty three meals a day. Hank is turning 18 soon, and will have to leave the shelter, but his positivity has never wavered. 

His case manager, Tracey, has connected him with the Georgia Hope Program, and Hank’s own goals are to graduate high school so that he can join the Navy.

When asked about how he feels about leaving the shelter and the path that he has before him, Hank said, “Before, my pride got in the way, but living here allowed me to put my pride aside and admit that I need help—and also taught me to find that help!”