2017 Semifinalist
County of Cobb, GA
January 1, 2017

The Center for Children and Young Adults (CCYA) began as a grassroots effort in 1981, and over the next two decades expanded its services to include an emergency children’s shelter, a co-ed home for children age 12–17, and transitional living for youth aging out of care at 18-years-old, eventually expanding to 13 counties. CCYA also began partnering with the Cobb Master Gardeners and initiated a campus community garden. In 2010, their philosophy shifted from a "shelter" model to a "youth development" model and expanded to include a Youth Activities & Volunteer Coordinator, and in 2013 launched its National Certification for Residential Child & Youth Care Professionals through the University of Oklahoma National Resource Center on Youth Services. This research-based certification training teaches staff how to develop a "culture of care" in residential facilities, an approach that empowers youth.  CCYA also uses a collaborative problem solving model that engages youth in resolving and addressing their own behavioral challenges. Following the US Department of Health and Human Services finding in April 2013 that generic counseling alone is ineffective with regard to the homeless population being served, in 2014 CCYA formally implemented its innovative therapies initiatives, including Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Horticulture Therapy (a “Farm to Table" garden for children and youth residing on the campus). AAT is designed to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and cognitive function. Tasks are designed to assist with problematic behaviors, communication, patience, self-control, and problem-solving. Lessons are easily transferable to relationships with others.