History and Mission

History and Mission

youthSpark is an innovator in transforming the lives of youth vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and a thought-leader in addressing child exploitation in Georgia and across the country.

We were founded in 2000 as an independent 501(c)3 when juvenile court judges, elected officials, and concerned friends in Atlanta envisioned an independent nonprofit organization with a concentrated focus on vulnerable children and families affected by the court. Today we fully embrace our position within the juvenile court system because it enables us to partner with judges, child advocates, and diverse Atlanta-area service providers to help meet critical needs within the Fulton County Juvenile Court—the largest concentration of at-risk youth and families in the Southeastern United States.

Over the years, we have been a leader in helping to make systemic changes in how the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC; also known as child sex trafficking) is understood and addressed; initially through our policy advocacy program A Future. Not A Past., but now throughout all of our organization’s programs. Our vision is a world in which no child is a product that can be bought, sold, or abused, and our mission is to advocate for youth who are in need of legal and adult protection in abusive and exploitative situations.

We operate out of donated space within the Fulton County Juvenile Court in Atlanta, where over 5,000 youth ages 12+ pass through our front doors each year. The majority of these young people have done nothing wrong whatsoever, as they are involved in child welfare cases. Many of the rest of our youth come through the building because they are engaging in risky and “crying out” behaviors such as running away from home or missing school.

We accomplish our mission through a combination of services for youth, investigative research, policy advocacy, and training. We believe that addressing abuse involves macro-level changes that are informed by micro-level experiences. This means we use data from our experiences working with children who are victimized by abuse, and then turn those data into responses that will achieve measurable impact.

youthSpark differs from many other organizations focusing on abuse, in that our impact model does not stop at addressing the issues of abuse firsthand through direct services to victims—we go a step further to scientifically research the causal underpinnings of abuse, and then use data to design tactical interventions that improve the effectiveness of partner organizations and child-facing systems, and address legislative and policy shortcomings.