Lori Christian is only 16-years-old but her tenacity and tender heart coupled with her family’s experience while fostering an abused infant sparked the young woman to start a charitable organization Teens for Abused Children (TFAC). The W.F. West junior works to advocate and support kids and teens in the foster care system.
All it takes is one idea and the right mix of determination and willpower to effect change and Lori is an example that no matter what age, helping others knows no bounds. Growing up in Chehalis, Lori loves Lewis County. “I am really fortunate to grow up in a small town,” she says.“There’s a lot of opportunities to do some good.”
Last year, an infant of an extended family member was placed with Lori’s family temporarily after suffering extreme abuse. Lori’s stepmother Maria is a nurse and they were able to support the baby’s medical needs properly. “It changed my whole perspective on the system seeing a child in need like that,” says Lori.
One night when her parents had to work, Lori woke up to care for her foster sister at 3:00 a.m. and knew she wanted to do more to help other children. “It opened my eyes, seeing this child in casts, thinking how someone could do this to a baby and how I didn’t realize things like this were going on,” she says. “I thought, this needs to end and I can use my voice and power, even limited by being 15, to make changes.”
Some of the problems Lori sees with Child Protective Services include understaffing, something she hopes to help change by lobbying to pass the “New Hope Law” that would cap the number of cases child protective services caseworkers can handle at one time.
“My foster sister’s caseworker had over 180 active cases and it makes it really difficult for one person to handle all that and give the care that is needed,” says Lori. “The foster system tends to, in my experience, want to place the child back with parents as quickly as possible and that can be problematic in a lot of situations.”
It was her debate coach Mrs. Williams who inspired Lori’s advocacy. “She’s taught for over 50 years and also taught my mother,” says Lori. “When I met her on the first day of freshman year, I was super shy and didn’t like talking to people. She is really supportive and helped me flourish into the young woman I am today and through speech and debate I was able to bring in advocacy.”
She also needed help from others. “My parents always joke that I like to do things by myself and don’t like to ask for help,” she says. “I had to get over myself a bit and ask for help from my parents, teachers and eventually classmates.”
The youth-led organization is both a support platform for young abuse victims and an advocacy opportunity for teens and youth in the community. They partner with hospitals and state agencies to help children who have experienced abuse and offer resources. Teens for Abused Children also provides an opportunity for teens to use their voice to help stop domestic abuse.
By partnering with school clubs and other organizations, including the Family Community Career Leaders of America to raise money, the teens raise funds to put together care packages for foster children, including diapers, clothes, toys, hygiene products and bottles.
Their short-term goals include working with a classmate and Eagle Scout Allison Hillikeron a project to fill 50-100 suitcases with clothes and hygiene products by the end of summer.
Long term, Lori plans to build a foundation for TFAC. “So, it can continue even when I am gone and off to college and to plant the seed in Lewis County by establishing a chapter at W.F. West and perhaps other highs schools no matter where I go,” she says.
Even when she grows up Lori’s personal goals will lead her down a path of advocacy for kids. “I want to be a family lawyer and work with women and children,” she says. “I’ve wanted to be a lawyer forever but going through this process shifted my mindset to family law.”
It was again Mrs. Williams and learning about debate and the political process that incited Lori’s future plans in the legal field. “She introduced me to Jim Lintott and he inspired me too,” she says. “He went to law school and his wife is currently practicing law so to see these people from Lewis County who are really successful is inspiring. You can come from a small town and still do amazing things.”
Recognition for the remarkable teen’s accomplishments includes being a distinguished finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, making TFAC and its message one of the top youth service projects in Washington. Nationally, Lori was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award with recognition from Washington Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler and President Donald Trump. TFAC was also recently recognized internationally by the Daily Points of Light Foundation.
Supporting Teens for Abused Children is something everyone can help with in some way. Help for the project can come from the community in the form of monetary donations for care packages. Younger kids and teens can join the team to help spread awareness. Adults can vote on issues in legislation regarding the foster care system.
Wise beyond her years, Lori faces any challenges head-on. “It was hard getting people to take me seriously being so young especially when you are trying to accomplish things that are big life problems,” she says. “It’s doesn’t seem like a 16-year-old can solve it and I can’t but I can spread awareness.”
To become involved with Teens for Abused Children or to offer support, contact Lori Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.