Coalition for At-Risk Youth helps foster children improve self-esteem

There is no denying that teenagers in the foster care system need special support so they can begin to develop the skills that will take them successfully into adulthood. Those with skin, hair or nail diseases may face even more challenges because their self-esteem may have been shattered by the obvious signs of their condition. Their condition can make them feel self-conscious, depressed and concerned about their future medical needs. Pearl E. Grimes, MD, FAAD, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist, recognized this two-fold need to: build self-esteem for these underprivileged teens and provide them with medical care.

The Coalition for At-Risk Youth (CARRY) was founded by Dr. Grimes in 2005 with the goal of providing opportunities for children and teens with skin diseases and other medical issues. Through CARRY, Dr. Grimes offers a wide range of services for youth who enter the program. Scholarships, mentoring, self-esteem workshops and a number of other individually targeted efforts underscore the organizations commitment to improving the outlook of teens with medical problems - one child at a time.

"I had been trying for a long time to figure out how to best make an impact in my community," said Dr. Grimes. "The vision for CARRY was solidified after volunteering at a shelter for teens. I estimated that three quarters of the homeless teens were former foster children and it became evident that I could make a significant impact by focusing on those in or leaving the foster care system."

Recently, in partnership with the United Peace Officers Against Crime, CARRY held its annual summer camp for approximately 350 youths, between the ages of 6 to 17. During camp, the youths engaged in a number of fun activities such as sports, arts and crafts, and a variety of team-building exercises. In addition, the teens were offered a variety of workshops and programs designed to boost self-esteem, develop leadership skills and nurture self-identity. Further, the camp offered medical clinics, including skin care clinics where Dr. Grimes and her team of health professionals diagnosed and treated more than 70 youths with everything from acne to vitiligo.

Dr. Grimes also offered to treat some of the teens for free at her practice. One teen-age girl diagnosed with vitligo at the recent summer camp was very hesitant about continuing her treatment until Dr. Grimes advised her to call her office and schedule an appointment free of charge. The girl's desire to seek successful treatment heightened upon realizing that help would be offered even after summer camp had ended.

"Self-esteem is so important for children and teenagers. If your skin makes you feel insecure, then your self-esteem suffers," said Dr. Grimes. "Through my work in providing dermatologic care for these youths , I have been able to demonstrate that we are positively impacting their lives. We are able to build their self image and provide them with the emotional support in knowing that they are not alone in their struggle."

In addition to offering summer camp, Dr. Grimes travels once a month to various homeless shelters and group homes throughout Los Angeles. By bringing the clinic to the teens, Dr. Grimes is able to provide them with more than just medical care.

"We talk about self-esteem by wrapping it into discussions about hygiene, hair and nail care, and sun protection," said Dr. Grimes. "By opening the discussion about things that they may have questions about, you can broaden the discussion to issues that they may be reluctant to discuss with each other or the shelter staff."

Although running a non-profit organization has kept Dr. Grimes extremely busy, she would not have it any other way.

"Running a successful non-profit organization means that a portion of every day is dedicated to volunteer work. I wear a lot of hats, and some days it's not easy to juggle everything. But I am committed to giving back to children," Dr. Grimes stated. "We've been lucky to have grown our organization every year, but there's still so much work to do. By continuing to focus on the progress of each individual child, I really believe that this organization, and I, can affect the lives of at-risk children."

A board-certified member of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy), Dr. Grimes has been recognized as a "Member Making a Difference" in her community. The Academy's volunteerism committee selects members who have participated in volunteer activities in their community to be recognized by their peers for their efforts.


 American Academy of Dermatology


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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