Children in Middle Tennessee recently enjoyed a holiday shopping spree, thanks to the generosity of Walmart and several members of the Tennessee Titans.
Orchestrated by Defensive End Kamerion Wimbley, the second annual “Shop with a Jock” event provided 50 children receiving help from Youth Villages with $100 gift cards and the chance to shop with a professional football player.
Participants also received a meal provided by Jason’s Deli, a commemorative T-shirt provided by Walmart, and a portrait taken with a member of the Titans.
We appreciate the following Titans for giving these children an unforgettable experience: Patrick Bailey, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden, Jason McCourty, Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Jonathan Willard, George Wilson, Kamerion Wimbley and Khalid Wooten.
Youth Villages strives to make sure the holidays are a special time for all the kids in our care through our Holiday Heroes program. For more information about Holiday Heroes, visit youthvillages.org.
An article featuring the work of Youth Villages is among more than 20 articles on the “pay for success” concept included in “Community Development Investment Review” recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Written by Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler and Jessica Foster, director of strategy, the article focuses on how to make “pay for success” contracting work, using experience gained from more than seven years of contracts with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. “Pay for Success” contracting has been touted to improve outcomes for children while increasing accountability for taxpayers and is one aspect of the movement toward performance-based contracting.
Despite some challenges in implementation, performance-based contracting in Tennessee’s child welfare system has led to better outcomes for children and families, Lawler and Foster said.
“In the first three years, care day utilization went down by 8 percent, and permanent exits went up 6 percent – without any increase in reentries to care,” they said. “These percentages may sound like fairly small improvements, but they are pointing in the right direction and mean that hundreds of children each year are achieving permanency.” A permanent exit from the child welfare system happens when a child is successfully reunited with his or her birth parents or becomes a part of a family through adoption.
The article says the best performance-based contracts give providers flexibility and include transparent and consistent data collection. The best contracts ensure that all providers are compared against common benchmarks, take each provider’s population mix into account and over time, shift “market share” to providers that produce the best outcomes, the nonprofit executives concluded.
“Absent that redistribution, states will fall short of delivering the best possible outcomes for troubled youth,” Lawler said. Despite the challenges, Youth Villages is an advocate for the pay for performance concept, he said.
“The current system of pay-for-outputs government contracting is not focused enough on real outcomes that we – providers, government, everyone who cares about kids and families – seek,” the authors concluded. “We believe that performance-based contracting has potential to achieve better results on limited budgets.”
Tabitha got high with her parents because that’s what you did in their home.
She grew up around drugs and drug use and got hooked on them. By the time she was supposed to enter the eighth grade, her teeth were rotting.
“I did drugs to be accepted by my parents,” Tabitha said. “But I just knew things were never going to work out for me. I didn’t do anything; I didn’t think I’d be anything.”
She didn’t go to school. Bouts of depression and anxiety stemmed from repeated neglect and then abuse. From ages 13-17, Tabitha’s downward spiral kept hitting new lows.
The whole time, she was looking out for her younger sisters. And at 17, Tabitha told a counselor about her home situation. Tabitha and her sisters were placed in state custody.
In foster care, Tabitha began to thrive. She completed high school through a special program, and then expressed interest in Youth Villages’ transitional living program.
“I knew about her because a friend of mine was a teacher in Tabitha’s program,” said Jai Gervin, Youth Villages TL clinical supervisor. “For me it was always about trust. It was important in Tabitha’s case to get her bought in to what we were doing.”
After aging out of the system, youth like Tabitha are statistically at their most vulnerable, with many facing a high risk of falling into a life of substance abuse, prison and poverty. However, we’ve learned that with the right intensive guidance and attention, their odds of becoming successful, independent adults increase dramatically.
Tabitha enrolled in college, and her dramatic change accelerated. The bond and support formed between Tabitha and Jai emboldened Tabitha to pursue more lofty goals and accomplish things she’d never thought possible.
She made A’s and B’s her first semester of college, and plans to go to nursing school. She has a job, checking and savings accounts and a driver’s license with plans to purchase a car.
“Tabitha needs consistency,” Jai said. “She needs to know someone is in her corner.”
Tabitha’s foster family plans to adopt her younger sisters, and Tabitha complements her TL work with regular therapy. In addition to her practical needs, Jai and Tabitha also discuss healthy relationships, personal boundaries and making good decisions.
“We role play quite a bit,” Jai said. “Many times she plays the role of counselor and I play Tabitha’s role.
“She has seen so much in her 18 years. But she’s motivated to change. She’s the one who did it.”
Even Tabitha is wowed by her accomplishments.
“TL is an awesome program,” she said. “But it’s still shocking … I’ve been clean for a while and I look back and see I’ve accomplished a lot since then.”
Phillip Ashley Chocolates is offering a Black Friday special benefiting the Youth Villages Transitional Living program.
On Friday, November 29, the company will donate 5% of all sales made online or from its retail location in Memphis at 798 South Cooper.
Award-winning chocolatier Chef Phillip Ashley Rix was named one of America’s Best Confectioners and Chocolatiers in 2013 by TasteTV for his dynamic ingredient combinations and unique designer chocolates.
A long-time supporter of Youth Villages, Chef Rix has shared his artistry with children participating in the Food With Class program, offered his designer chocolates at YV’s annual Soup Sunday fundraiser in Memphis, and even created a gourmet truffle inspired by the organization and featuring the red kite logo.
To take part in Phillip Ashley Chocolates’ Black Friday event, visit www.phillipashley.com.
In the five years she was separated from her children, Marion Green, an Auburndale, Fla., mom, cried buckets of tears but never gave up hope that she’d one day be able to pull her family back together.
Marion grew up in a troubled home herself, even spending time in foster care. As a young adult, she admits she made mistakes. After an automobile accident, she faced charges and ended up incarcerated
“All I could think about was my children,” Marion said. “My youngest son, Jeremiah, wasn’t even walking and talking.” She had to leave him and her other three children with relatives, receiving only a few pictures of them while she was away.
As soon as she was released, Marion began working to bring her kids home. She struggled to meet requirements and prove that she could be a good parent. Twice she even considered suicide.
“My children were all I had,” she said. “I never stopped fighting for them.”
The Youth Villages Lakeland, Fla., office was assigned to help Marion and her children reunify safely and successfully.
Marion’s sons Adrian, 11, Joshua, 8, and Jeremiah, 7, came home just before Christmas in 2012. Her daughter Jakaliah, 13, followed. But, the homecoming was rocky. The younger children barely remembered a time when they lived with their mother.
Audrey Mayfield-Gordon, family intervention specialist with Youth Villages, was assigned to work intensively with Marion and her children in their Lakeland home.
“It was hard to manage them,” Marion admits. “They were out of control. They cursed everyone at any time. They didn’t know how to behave. I was afraid they would run Audrey off!”
When Audrey walked in the door, she saw a mother who was doing many things well and was more than willing to learn specific interventions to help parent her children, who struggled with emotional and behavioral problems.
“She was open to using the interventions and always acknowledged her challenges and the children’s problems,” Audrey said.
The two worked together on behavioral charts and to find rewards that would motivate the children to change their behaviors.
“The behavior chart is still up at our house,” Marion said. “The children get excited when they see me marking the board because they know they’ll get rewards.”
Audrey worked with Mom for four months, meeting with her in the home at least three times each week and working in the community and the children’s schools.
“She wouldn’t give up,” Audrey says. “She worked hard to establish positive relationships with the children, to set proper structure in the home. Marion knew that the job wouldn’t end when I left. She has to work every day to help the kids overcome their behavioral challenges, and she knows what to do.”
The children are now doing well in school and getting ready for a family Thanksgiving.
“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in our lives,” Marion said. “There are so many things that I want to do with them. I look forward to watching them grow. I want to tell other parents who may be in my situation that it’s never too late. It took five years, but my family is together at home.”
Stand tall for America’s most vulnerable children in these fabulous shoes.
The online retailer Milk & Honey Shoes has teamed with five generous celebrities to offer Youth Villages supporters an exciting new way to help children during National Adoption Month in November.
Kristin Chenoweth, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, CariDee English, Ashley Williams and Kayla Farhang have designed shoes for Milk & Honey, an online custom shoe retailer, to benefit the children being helped by Youth Villages. When you purchase a pair of these specially designed shoes, 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Youth Villages. Visit www.milkandhoneyshoes.com and choose your shoes today for an easy and stylish way to help the kids who need it most.
They also make a great holiday gift – for your own wish list or to give to others.
Youth Villages’ celebrity supporters and Milk & Honey chose November for the campaign because it is National Adoption Month. During November, we pay special attention to our country’s thousands of children waiting for forever families – and those especially vulnerable older youth who turn 18 and leave foster care on their own without ever being adopted by a new family.
Youth Villages helps thousands of our country’s most vulnerable children each year by strengthening birth and adoptive families. In addition, Youth Villages’ transitional living program for youth who have aged out of foster care without being adopted is helping thousands of young people become successful adults each year.
Show your support of Youth Villages’ children and the thousands of children in foster care across America. It’s an easy way to “stand tall” for kids who need us.
Adam Becenti named tribal liaison/cultural coordinator for Cedar Bough Native American Program at Youth Villages Oregon
The program offers culturally responsive residential treatment for Native American youth and other young people who can benefit from a strong cultural and spiritual program. In his position, Becenti helps Native American youth connect or reconnect to their cultural and spiritual heritage in the program. He also works with the program’s Native American Advisory Council led by Dr. John Spence.
From the clan of Red Running Into the Water, Becenti grew up on the border of the Navajo Tribal Nation in Gallup, N.M.
“Growing up, my grandfather taught me traditional Navajo culture and practice, giving me a strong foundation,” Becenti said. “I’m proud to be helping Native children and youth in this program and will be meeting with tribal leaders throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest to learn more about their needs and expectations for our services.”
Becenti has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and ethnic studies from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis on education policy from the University of Michigan. He worked to recruit and retain Native American students for the University of Colorado and has diverse experience in Native American programs including College Horizons, United National Indian Tribal Youth and the Patty Iron Cloud National Native American Youth Initiative.