A drive by shooting shattered Chris’s world – but not his spirit.

Just 17, he had already experienced so much pain, violence and trauma during his lifetime. But the shooting was his wake-up call. Determined not to become a statistic, Chris was ready to turn his life around.

He found hope and support through Jessica M. of our Redeploy Illinois program – aimed at diverting youth involved with the juvenile justice system from progressing to juvenile prison. Juvenile justice specialists like Jessica work closely with the youth and their families on the underlying issues that led them to criminal behavior. At the same time specialists also educate the court system on trauma and the best approaches to support youth in turning their lives around.

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“We don’t turn our back on these youth. They come from difficult backgrounds, rough neighborhoods and some have long rap sheets,” Jessica said. “But we believe in them. Sometimes we’re the only ones that do.”

But Chris’s life became that much harder with Covid-19:

He lost his first part-time job.

His substance abuse treatment was put on hold.

And he no longer had a way to meet weekly with Jessica and his therapist – also part of the Redeploy program. He was at risk of losing ground on the progress he had already made.

But Jessica would not let that happen –she would not give up on him. She secured a tablet for him to seamlessly continue his sessions virtually, including their teamwork toward achieving his GED.

“He was so motivated and put his heart into starting a new chapter,” she said. “He said he knew I would be there for him. This meant the world to me.”

Jessica – and the rest of Children’s Home & Aid staff statewide — is doing whatever it takes. For Chris, and many other individuals and families served by Children’s Home & Aid, your support is needed so we can ensure that every child and every family thrives.