kids in focus


Kids in Focus is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering vulnerable youth to see themselves and the world in a new light, equipping them with self-worth and essential life skills to shift from surviving to thriving. Since 2012, Kids in Focus has transformed the lives of thousands of kids in need by providing evidence-based programs that focus on building resilience and instilling confidence, character, trust, and belonging.

When kids experience the trauma of neglect, abuse, poverty, and homelessness, they disconnect from the world and themselves.  Through the restorative power of photography and the guidance of dedicated mentors, the kids open their eyes to their own potential and build the resilience they need to overcome the challenges they face.

Karen Shell is the Founder and brainchild of the organization, and she was the Executive Director and passionate driving force for the first 11 years.  Helping kids in need has been a lifelong pursuit for Karen, as she herself is a survivor of childhood abuse. Karen has been very actively serving vulnerable kids and families since the early 1990’s, from which Kids in Focus was born in 2012. 

Kids in Focus programs are highly experiential and mentor driven.  Youth ages 9-18 spend thousands of hours with volunteer photographer Mentors each year, reframing the world and forging trusting relationships.  Year-round programs are provided free-of-charge through Afterschool Programs, Workshops, and Camps.  Kids can then stay involved for several years through the Grads in Focus and Junior Mentor Programs.  The kids inspiring images are exhibited at an annual Exhibit Opening and at prominent venues throughout their community.

What the Kids Are Saying

“Before Kids in Focus, when I would get mad, I would go in my room and hit the wall. Now I go in there and start taking pictures.


“I used to be a trouble-maker before Kids in Focus but this opportunity makes me step up. I follow directions more and I’ve become a better leader.


“Since I got the camera, I spend more time outside exploring and discovering.”


“I loved the field trips because I not only got to take pictures, I got to meet people and meet the world around me and got to see great things.”


“I learned that if you take your time and you put effort into what you’re doing, good things come out of it.”


“Taking photos is good for my soul.  The camera is kind of my best friend.  With it, I can go with the flow”


“I noticed that I’m not as shy as I used to be. I smile more now.”


“Finally it feels like I’ve accomplished something in life.”


“At the opening, I had a chance to show what I’m worth and what I’m worth doing.”


“It made me feel very proud. Like I could accomplish a lot more.”


“I learned who I really am. It opened my eyes to things around me and to myself.”


I discovered how much beauty there is in the world.”