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Steven Tyler Skittles portrait to be auctioned to benefit Janie’s Fund

February 7, 2016

Skittles® announced tonight an eBay auction of musician Steven Tyler’s Skittles portrait (below) to support Tyler’s philanthropic initiative that helps girls who have been abused and neglected: Janie’s Fund.

Tyler and his Skittles portrait are featured in the Skittles Super Bowl 50 television commercial, in which Tyler comes face to face with a portrait of himself made entirely of the candy. Bidders can bid on the replica Skittles portrait at starting Sunday evening until Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. CST.

Proceeds from the auction will support Janie’s Fund, Tyler’s partnership with private nonprofit Youth Villages that raises money and awareness to help Youth Villages provide trauma-informed care to girls who have histories of being abused and/or neglected.

Tyler’s hit song “Janie’s Got a Gun,” originally released Nov. 8, 1989, was born out of a growing desire to speak up for victims of child abuse. Each year, 1 in 5 girls in the United States experiences sexual abuse.

 For more information, please visit or call 901-251-5000.


Youth Villages staff share stories from families helped by Holiday Heroes in New England

January 14, 2016


View a photo gallery featuring event photos, volunteer testimonials and thank-you notes from the children and families we serve.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters, Youth Villages fulfilled the holiday wishes of more than 430 youth in need from approximately 140 families participating in our New England programs – including 86 adolescent girls living at the Youth Villages – Germaine Lawrence Campus.

Several specialists who work with youth and their families, across Youth Villages programs, shared some heartwarming stories about how the gifts from Holiday Heroes made a difference this holiday season:

This year I was able to refer a family at the last minute to Holiday Heroes because the family was in desperate need of holiday help. Mom had recently obtained a part-time delivery job and she does the best she can with what she has. Mom is balancing work and caring for her three children, all younger than seven. Her oldest is autistic and needs additional care and support, putting an additional strain on Mom.

The Holiday Heroes Elves were able to get all the children what they needed and wanted. All one daughter wanted was a baby doll, which she got, and winter clothes and boots. A second daughter is obsessed with “Frozen,” and she got these adorable boots with Elsa on them, a doll and other “Frozen” items and clothes.

Mom was so happy and thankful when I called her to tell her that we received the gifts and that I would bring them by in time for Christmas.

Thank you to all of the supporters of Holiday Heroes for donating to this amazing program. This family and so many other families are so grateful for the gifts that they received this holiday season!

-Lindsay Beitman, Family Intervention Specialist

I had the pleasure of dropping off gifts to a family that had recently reached its goals and completed its work with Youth Villages. When the mother laid her eyes on the four bikes, she lit up with joy. This is a woman who I have rarely seen smile and she was grinning like this was the best day of her life.

She said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over again, and helped me bring the bikes into her friend’s house to store until Christmas morning.

This mother struggles as a single mother with four children and, although she works full-time, there never seems to be enough money to buy any extras, let alone Christmas presents.

Mom informed me that this would be the “best Christmas,” and she could not wait until the children saw the bikes and other presents.

Thank you so very much for your generosity. It is people like you that give families hope, joy and happy memories. From the bottom of our hearts, we at Youth Villages thank you very much.

-Sara Chappell, Clinical Supervisor

A young woman I work with has had a ton of disrupted foster home placements as a child and adult. She told me before that she never felt like she had a home.

We talked about what would make a place a home for her. She said it was be a place where she could put her “stamp” on it – her personality. With the gifts she received from Holiday Heroes, she kept saying “this is what home must feel like” and “I really want to live here for a while.” Now she is reaching out for support when difficulties arise to ensure she can maintain her placement.

Thank you to all of the Holiday Heroes that supported the young adults in YVLifeSet!

-Nicole Schick, YVLifeSet Clinical Supervisor

Tasha learning skills to cope with difficult situations and events

December 3, 2015


Tasha, 14, shared with her counselor that her pets were her only friends. When she felt threatened or angry, she would begin to behave like a cat.

“Tasha was allegedly touched inappropriately by a boy at school, and this is when the behaviors began,” said Karissa Winfrey, courtyard supervisor at Youth Villages’ Girls Center for Intensive Residential Treatment. “Tasha feels like an outsider.”

Tasha’s been at Youth Villages’ Girls Center for nearly a year. In that time, counselors and staff have helped Tasha, giving her skills to cope with situations and events that would formerly trigger her negative behaviors.

“We let her have that pretend-time because that was important for her,” said Katelynne McClung, Youth Villages’ residential therapist. “But she also began to see there was a time for that and a time to be in the present with everyone else.”

Tasha learned how to communicate her feelings and manage her emotions, especially the negative ones.

“Children who go through trauma at a young age have an extremely difficult time regulating their emotions,” Katelynne said. “Tasha’s worked hard here, and we remind her about all of the things she’s learned so she can care for herself.”

She’s a totally different child now. Tasha will soon discharge and return to her parents, who adopted her at a young age.

Megan’s made a huge leap with intensive counseling and real-life skills training

December 2, 2015


Megan suffered neglect from her parents who had an extensive history of drug abuse. She once went a full year without attending school and was subject to long periods of time with no supervision.

“She lacked basic hygiene skills and simple social skills,” said Youth Villages Residential Therapist Elizabeth Parker. “She was also defiant and had a difficult time when she didn’t get what she wanted.”

In fact, Megan laughed at the judge who ordered her to residential treatment. Her defiance also manifested in physical and verbal aggression, but it was different.

“Because of her lack of social skills, her defiant threats were often out of context,” Elizabeth said. “They were taken seriously at her school and here at the Center, but we could tell that wasn’t the real Megan.”

The real Megan was scared and embarrassed. Just 14, she was the youngest girl in her group at Youth Villages. She thought she had to act tough or she would be bullied.

“Megan was introverted, but she wants to be included in things,” Elizabeth said. “The older girls in her group were kind to her and helped her along.”

Coupled with intensive counseling and real-life skills training, Megan learned how to take care of herself. Her self-confidence improved as well.

“Now she dresses nice and fixes her hair,” said Carman Mayham, courtyard supervisor at the Girls Center. “She uses her coping skills to manage her emotions when things get challenging, and she’s made a huge leap in just a short time being here.”

Desmae gets new chance at life with adoptive family

November 30, 2015

DesmaeOne-year-old Desmae weighed one pound when she was born. She was abandoned at the hospital with a chronic lung disease.

“Her doctors didn’t think she would survive,” said Kristyn Vanderland, Youth Villages foster care counselor. “Jason and Kealy have been a huge part of Desmae’s recovery.”

Jason and Kealy Mead are Desmae’s adoptive parents. While Desmae spent her first five months of life in the intensive-care nursery, Jason and Kealy were at the hospital almost every day.

“It was so hard to see Desmae struggle in the hospital,” Kristyn said. “But watching Desmae look to Kealy and Jason for comfort was so special. They were family even before the adoption occurred.”

Jason and Kealy have children of their own and an adopted son with disabilities. With love and dedication, the family welcomed Desmae into their home and helped nurse her back to health.

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit

“They are remarkable people,” said Elena Tanase, Youth Villages adoption specialist. “They are fully committed to Desmae, who will most likely need extra support for the rest of her life.”

Desmae’s adoption was celebrated with grandparents, family friends and Youth Villages staff. Thanks to the selfless hearts of Jason and Kealy, Desmae has a forever family.

“It has been amazing to see Desmae’s story unfold,” Kristyn said. “With Jason and Kealy’s care and attention, she has reached milestones no one ever expected her to reach. We are so thankful.”

Time In with Dr. Tim: Helping girls overcome the emotional scars of trauma

November 24, 2015

The breakthrough came through crochet.

Like many girls who have suffered abuse or neglect, Kacy didn’t want to talk to a counselor. At just 10 years old, she had come to our Youth Villages Girls Center for Intensive Residential Treatment for intensive help in a safe setting. She hadn’t been successful in other places, but she wasn’t doing too well with us either.

Youth Villages helps girls in all our programs, but our Girls Center was opened in 2009 specifically because of the lack of effective help for girls with the most severe emotional and behavioral issues. Like many of the girls who come to us, Kacy hurts herself — cutting her skin with any sharp object, even attempting suicide. That’s a common way that girls respond to trauma.

Children usually don’t respond to trauma the way we think they should. Trauma, just like any stress, can trigger “flight or fight” responses. But, girls and young children most often freeze rather than fight or flee. They don’t act out; they act in, disassociating from the world around them. They can look calm and be compliant. It may be some time before their self-harm, destructive behaviors or just withdrawal draw attention.

In the last 10 years or so, we’ve learned a lot about how the brain works in children and youth who bear the mental scars of trauma. When your brain is constantly in the flight, fight or freeze mode, it’s impossible to think clearly. The cognitive part of the brain has shut down. In order to reach Kacy with trauma-informed interventions, our therapist had to get her brain to open up during a human interaction – something the young girl had learned to fear.

You can’t force treatment on a child who has shut down. Counselors must take a step back and find creative and unique ways to engage. As it turned out, the young girl loved to crochet. The needles can be dangerous, and Kacy’s crochet time was very limited at the center.

The counselor told Kacy she could crochet all she wanted during their trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. That made the difference. As her fingers clicked away, Kacy was able to talk to her therapist and listen. In each session, she learns a new “skill”: relaxation, breathing, mindfulness. These are techniques that will help her be able to “self-regulate” — control herself when she is stressed by life situations like going home or back into a regular classroom.

Helping girls is different from helping boys. To get the best outcomes, to help girls live successfully in their homes and communities, counselors use everything we know about the brain and the most effective trauma-informed practices. It doesn’t hurt to know a little crochet, too.

Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages' chief clinical officer

Dr. Tim Goldsmith, Youth Villages’ chief clinical officer

Tim Goldsmith, Ph.D., is chief clinical officer at Youth Villages, where he directs a staff of clinical specialists who oversee the treatment of more than 23,000 children and youth every year.

This month, rock superstar Steven Tyler announced Janie’s Fund, a philanthropic partnership with Youth Villages to bring hope and healing for many of our country’s most vulnerable girls who have suffered the trauma of abuse and neglect.

All parents have moments when they wish they could consult with an expert. If you have a question about your tween or teen’s behavior, send it to If Dr. Tim and his staff of experts feature your question in a column, he’ll change names and other specifically identifying information.

Scarlett learns to trust again

November 24, 2015


Scarlett, 16, hopped on the living room couch with a cookie and a glass of milk. She brushed her hair out of her face and giggled.

“When I first moved into Jack and Christie’s foster home, I was very quiet,” Scarlett said. “I kept to myself and had a horrible temper.”

Scarlett faced abandonment in her biological home. She lived with numerous foster parents and experienced a failed adoption.

“She had a hard time developing positive and trusting relationships,” said Tara Shepherd, Scarlett’s Youth Villages counselor. “She was introverted, self-harming and angry.”

But with Jack and Christie Barton, Scarlett experienced a loyal relationship for the first time.

“She was adopted into an open-minded, nonjudgmental and loving forever family,” Tara said. “After a few months with them, Scarlett blossomed.”

Jack and Christie provide Scarlett with unfailing support. They meet with a physician to maintain a healthy balance of medication. They look for new ways to help increase her confidence.

“Scarlett has an exceptionally good sense of humor and she is witty,” Christie said. “She is fun to be around and we encourage her to be herself.”

Scarlett used to hide behind her long black hair. She wouldn’t speak to anyone unless her hair covered most of her face.

“Every time we spoke, we reminded her that we wanted to see her pretty face,” Christie said. “After a while, she didn’t feel the need to hide anything.”

To learn more about adoption through Youth Villages in Tennessee, visit our website at For information about adopting through foster care no matter where you live, visit

Scarlett’s temper tantrums lasted for days when she entered Jack and Christie’s home. Now, she draws, journals and writes fan fiction to cope with her emotions in a healthy way.

“She’ll always have stability here,” Jack said. “She will attend the same school for more than one year for the first time in her life. She’ll go to prom, graduate and receive her diploma with these classmates.”

Scarlett’s personality shines with Jack and Christie’s encouragement. Their stable home allows her to be confident and comfortable in her own skin.

“My attitude and behavior have improved because Christie and Jack accept me for who I am,” Scarlett said. “They treat me well, they’re honest and I can trust them.”


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