Karen Foote had had enough. Fourteen years in law enforcement had brought her face to face with the devastation children face when a parent is taken to jail. And she had also found that the reason one parent or both parents were absent didn’t matter; children living in single parent or no parent households all too often don’t have the direction and support they need to be successful in school- and in life.
It isn’t just children of single-parent families that struggle. Regardless of the number of parents in a household, the economic demands of raising a family often force parents to work multiple jobs, which virtually eliminates the time they have to spend helping their children with schoolwork and social education.
In 2006, Karen formed the L.E.A.A.D.S Centers (Law Enforcement Agencies Assisting in the Development of Students) to provide help for students facing a variety of issues ranging from failing in school to being involved in criminal activities. During the school year, LEAADS, which serves the Snellville/South Gwinnett county area, provides after-school academic programs, and during the summer months, the organization hosts a camp.
The services provided by the LEAADS programs help on a number of levels. Obviously, the after-school programs provide the academic assistance needed to turn failing grades into passing grades. The summer camp also has an academic component but is primarily designed as a fun alternative to staying home alone or joining a gang. One aspect of these programs that is often overlooked is the impact on parents. According to Karen, “Parents often have no choice but to take their kids with them when they’re looking for a job, and if a better job requires additional education, taking your kids with you may not be an option. We provide low cost and in some cases no cost programs that allow parents to pursue job opportunities without having to take their kids with them or leave them unsupervised.”
While providing students with a healthy after-school environment and motivating them to be successful is a prime focus of LEAADS, intervention is another area of specialization. Counselors work with a number of youth detention facilities with the goal of reducing recidivism. Karen states, “All too often, after kids (and adults too) serve their time, they have no one to get them on the right track and they return to the same habits and environment that put them on a path to illegal activity. Our intervention programs give them a needed alternative, and fortunately, we’ve had a lot of success in that area.”
LEAADS has also had a lot of success with its summer camp. Last year it hosted over 200 kids at Shiloh High School. Unfortunately, that venue is no longer available so the camp will serve a limited number of students this year unless a suitably sized facility can be found.