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NYTimes.com: A families-first approach to foster care

February 22, 2011

Family Intervention Specialist Leontyne Scott, second from right, works with a young man and his family. Youth Villages counselors do much of their work in the kitchens and living rooms of families they assist.

In a post on the New York Times‘ “Fixes” blog, author David Bornstein singles out Youth Villages for our organization’s “rigorous attention to data and its willingness to invest in strengthening families — even when the conventional wisdom held that families were the problem.”

It’s often difficult to change methods when you’ve become accustomed to one way of thinking about a problem. But continued disappointment with the outcomes of children discharged from our care led Youth Villages CEO Pat Lawler to look for a more effective solution. That’s when we stumbled upon the need for “intensive in-home family services,” building two programs that focused on strengthening families, leading to more successful outcomes, and at a lower cost.

Youth Villages’ results are challenging the prevailing notion that states can do better than vulnerable families at raising children. “I don’t know who came up with this idea many years ago that to fix a child, it was best to take the child out of the home and put him in a foster home, a group home, or a residential treatment facility,” says Lawler. “For a few months it’s tolerable and in many cases necessary. But for a child to grow up in the system is terrible. Unfortunately that’s been the protocol for decades now.”

Bornstein credits Youth Villages’ commitment to research and honest self-assessment as important parts of the solution to the serious challenges facing our nation’s foster care system.

The innovations that Youth Villages has helped advance show how other social service organizations might improve outcomes, as well. At the top of the list is Youth Villages’ rigorous attention to data and its willingness to invest in strengthening families — even when the conventional wisdom held that families were the problem.

Read the whole post at the New York Times Opinionator.

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