In 1972 a young mother and regular education teacher of home economics was confronted with a personal and professional dilemma. Carol Fuller Powell, founder and Executive Director of Charis Youth Center, realized that the educational system was unable or unwilling to provide adequate services to her son with special needs. By 1978 her frustration turned to passion and a determination to do something about it. She began to provide school services for boys in a room donated by a church in Hayward, CA. Other mothers, similarly frustrated, frightened and in need of help brought their children to her, paying only what they could afford. As more youth were enrolled in this growing private school it eventually occupied an entire floor of the church.
Carol earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education 1982. In 1983 Charis was incorporated, changed from a private school to a licensed non-public school, and began to expand into residential services, opening the first residential treatment facility. Charis Youth Center treatment programs were developed to serve youth and families challenged by emotional, economic, and systemic problems that could not be effectively served in other settings. Guided by the premise that youth and families have been neglected, confused, abused, and distraught, Charis provides nurturance, guidance, structure, and positive reinforcement toward empowering and enabling our clients to develop, grow, and reintegrate. Within this framework it is possible to change and/or modify behaviors that have inhibited development.
Beyond the passion and determination that began the mission of this work, Carol sought models and values to further the development of the organization. She sought to include in the design, programs that were well established, research-based, and empirically proven to maximize her efforts for a successful children’s program with positive outcomes. What she learned in this search helped broaden the vision and create a foundation of principles and values that allow Charis Youth Center to have a kinship with organizations throughout the world to share visions and knowledge about best practices.