Seven-year-old Trazkerian sits in April Johnson’s lap as Jeremy Evans, a Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist, walks through the front door. Trazkerian is quiet and relaxed.
“Traz never experienced true consistency with a family,” April said. “He felt a lot of anger when big changes occurred and didn’t know how to express it before Youth Villages came in.”
Trazkerian was neglected and abused in his biological home. He was removed from his first foster parents’ home after three years. When he was placed with April and Scott, Trazkerian’s house, family and school all changed at once.
“He yelled, screamed and threw things,” April said. “His behavior was scary for our other children and we didn’t know if we could keep him here. We needed help.”
Jeremy showed Traz how to communicate his emotions with words instead of destructive actions. Traz learned to draw and work on puzzles by himself to calm down.
“When he gets upset, he walks straight to the living room to find a puzzle,” April said. “Thanks to Jeremy, Traz manages his feelings without causing trouble.”
All summer, Jeremy prepared Traz to transition into a new school. Jeremy and the family worked with school staff to create a behavior plan and support Traz in the new environment. When Traz felt upset, he approached his teacher and went to a designated spot in the library to regroup.
“Traz was on the edge of expulsion when we started out,” Jeremy said. “He threw chairs and spit on other kids. Now, his new teacher reports that he is polite, helpful and a model student.”
April is open-minded and engaged during sessions with Jeremy. She comes with questions and feedback. Scott helps Trazkerian stay active and interact with kids his own age by coaching his soccer team.
“April and Scott invest in Trazkerian’s well-being each day,” Jeremy said. “Their devotion to him gives him confidence and reassurance. They are fantastic parents.”
Thanks to Youth Villages and his adoptive parents, Trazkerian has a stable home and the support he needs to work through difficult changes.
“Everyone notices a difference in him,” April said. “He smiles and he laughs. Because of Youth Villages, Traz is happier and more comfortable everyday.”
Nine participants in Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program joined other foster youth from around the country (above) for the Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Program in Washington, D.C., this week. They are participating in three days of education, advocacy and relationship building with the goal of improving and strengthening child welfare systems across the United States. They were at the White House today and heard from administration leaders on why advocacy by foster youth on the local, state and national levels is critical to affecting the decisions made by elected officials and policy leaders on their behalf (below).
“YVLifeSet gives young adults like me the extra reinforcement to achieve goals that we otherwise might not be able to achieve. It helps kids like me prepare for adulthood in the right way which helps us pave the way for a bright future.”
— Ann (center, with Gov. Charles Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker)
Youth Villages is grateful to the 230 supporters, including Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker, who joined us Thursday, April 28, as we honored our Massachusetts Founding Board Member, Sandy Edgerley, at our Spring Celebration. The outpouring of generosity from our guests at this year’s event truly blew us away! The event raised over $550,000 to help even more young adults aging out of foster care like Ann (above), through the YVLifeSet program. Together we are giving these young people the gift of a good start!
It’s not too late to support our YVLifeSet program. Please click here to contribute.
If you were unable to attend the event, please watch this short but moving video to hear directly from Ann (below) about how YVLifeSet has helped set her on a path towards success.
Please feel free to share this video with your friends, family and coworkers through your social media networks. It takes all of us to help make sure no child becomes lost at 18. We give special thanks to the evening’s honoree, Sandy Edgerley, our amazing event committee and our event sponsors without whom this event would not have been possible.
Special thanks to our sponsors:
Anita and Josh Bekenstein
Sandy and Paul Edgerley
Joanna and Jon Jacobson
The Klarman Family Foundation
Amy and David Abrams
Yvette and Peter Mulderry
Brian and Stephanie Spector
Fran and David Davidson
Patti and Jonathan Kraft
Mike Krupka and Anne Kubik
Mark Nunnelly and Denise Dupre
Kim Syman and J.B. Lyon
Daniel and Shoshana Farb, Donna and David Frieze, Jeffrey and Janet Glidden, Dave and Suzi Johnson, Lisa and Michael Josephson, Jessica and Josh Lutzker, Lori and Matthew Sidman, Jill and Michael Stansky, Caron and Kevin Tabb
The Boston Foundation, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Cares, Credit Suisse, The Davis Companies, Alexis Contant and Jordan Smoller, Yvonne Hao, Ralph and Janice James, Daniel and Wendy Kraft, Emily and Michael Speicher, Jennifer and Seth Stier
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month
May is designated National Foster Care Awareness Month, a time set aside to help raise awareness of the needs and challenges of children in foster care.
Youth Villages partners with the states of Tennessee and Mississippi to help find and train foster parents and oversee the care they provide to children. Youth Villages is also one of a handful of organizations that handle adoptions from foster care in Tennessee.
“The need for foster families is great and ongoing,” said Tiffany Dickerson, who oversees Youth Villages’ foster care recruitment and training efforts in the Shelby County in Tennessee. “Every child needs and deserves to live with a family, and for many children, a foster family is the first time they experience stability. We see it over and over how foster families make a difference for children who cannot live with their birth families.”
Children are placed into foster care when it’s determined that their families cannot safely care for them. Some of the children have faced abuse and neglect. States look for an appropriate placement for the child among its pool of foster parents and calls its partner organizations to help find a family who’s a good match.
“The calls come daily about a child or several children, or a sibling group who need homes,” Dickerson said. “We want to be ready to answer the call, and in order to do that, we are looking for more foster families.”
Each state has requirements that potential foster parents must meet.
“The most important requirement is that people interested in fostering have a passion for making a difference in the lives of children,” Dickerson said.
Youth Villages foster parents receive 24/7 support and a monthly stipend to help offset the cost of caring for a child. Adoption through Youth Villages is free.
Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer Steven Tyler, Award-Winning Director Brett Ratner Bring Intimate Concert Performance To Lincoln Center May 2 to benefit Janie’s Fund
Tickets On Sale Friday, April 8 10 a.m. ET
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Steven Tyler today announced his intimate concert performance “STEVEN TYLER…OUT ON A LIMB” at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall on May 2. The award-winning director Brett Ratner and the legendary frontman are collaborating on a unique experience to benefit Janie’s Fund, Tyler’s charitable initiative to help girls overcome the trauma of abuse and neglect.
Named after his hit song “Janie’s Got A Gun,” Janie’s Fund is a collaboration between Tyler and leading nonprofit organization Youth Villages established to help girls who have been abuses and neglected. Launched in November 2015, Janie’s Fund offered a historic 54 days of impact coinciding with the 26th anniversary of the release of the song. For more information, please visit: www.JaniesFund.org.
“Youth Villages is so grateful to Steven Tyler for starting Janie’s Fund to help our girls who are working to heal from abuse,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. “Steven’s commitment to helping these girls brings them so much hope, and this will be an incredible evening. He uses his big voice unceasingly to raise awareness and funds for the voiceless.”
“I’m digging deep and finding some real buried treasure for this one. I’ve never performed quite like this before,” Tyler said. “I’m telling it like it is and getting to perform with some extremely talented musicians and dear friends from Nashville. For this show, we’re taking it up close and personal and truly going…OUT ON A LIMB.”
“STEVEN TYLER…OUT ON A LIMB” will showcase in-depth stories and insights on stage from recounts of Tyler’s piano upbringing to trials and tribulations of life with his band. Backed by his Nashville-based band, Loving Mary, Tyler will lead the crowd on a time-traveling journey from his musical ancestors in Calabria, Italy all the way to Route 440 and Nashville’s country music.
The event will also feature a silent auction with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and memorabilia, from a five-day stay at Tyler’s Hawaiian home to a limited edition, hand-shaped artist series surfboard designed by artist Tim Bessell as part of the Bessell Warhol Project. Additional items include an autographed, one-of-a-kind painting of Tyler and Aerosmith bandmate Joe Perry by artist Brian Fox; the Skittles® mic stand from the set of Tyler’s Super Bowl commercial; exclusive signed images taken by photographer Sarah Skinner; pieces from Tyler’s personal wardrobe worn on American Idol; and an opportunity to attend the Emmy® Awards in Los Angeles along with a complimentary gifting suite prize package.
Tickets go on sale Friday, April 8 at 10 a.m. and are priced at $53, $153 and $203, not including applicable service charges. Two VIP packages will be offered by Twisted J, one at $550 (includes access to seats in the first five rows and exclusive advance access to silent auction items) and $950 (same offer as $550 with the addition of a Meet and Greet). For additional information with package details, visit www.ticketmaster.com.
One of music’s most recognizable and dynamic performers, Tyler has been cited by Rolling Stone as “one of the greatest singers of all time.” Tyler and Aerosmith have sold more than 150 million records worldwide and he has won four GRAMMY® Awards, six American Music Awards, four Billboard Music Awards and an Emmy® Award. In addition to having nine No. 1 hits, Aerosmith has received 25 Gold, 18 Platinum and 12 multi-Platinum album certifications. Tyler’s highly anticipated upcoming solo album is scheduled for release later this summer on Big Machine Label Group’s Dot Records. His current single, “RED, WHITE, & YOU” is available now.
In addition to presenting sponsor Twisted J Apparel, award-winning New York-based restaurant Catch will sponsor the milestone event.
Emily, 18, drove home from class and pulled into her foster mother’s driveway. She stepped out of her new car with a quiet confidence.
“This is where Leslie and I live,” Emily said. “She’s my foster mom and my best friend. Living here has been really good for me.”
Not long ago, Emily had severe anxiety and depression. She grew up with an abusive father, and her mother had bipolar disorder.
“Our home was like a war zone,” Emily said. “I felt lost. Mom refused to accept the truth about the abuse. She didn’t take her medication, and her moods were all over the place.”
When she moved in with Leslie, Emily’s anxiety was crippling. She had flashbacks and emotional breakdowns. She stopped going to school and was scared to leave the house. Leslie and Emily sought information about Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program.
“After she warmed up to Leslie, Emily felt at home for the first time,” said April Tussing, Youth Villages YVLifeSet specialist. “She finally has a safe haven and a support system.”
April meets with Emily on a regular basis, helping her prepare for a bright future.
“Emily was taking more than 10 medications when I met her,” April said. “Together, we regulated her medicine and discovered alternate ways for her to cope with anxiety.”
Emily uses essential oils to calm her nerves and sees a therapist to work through past trauma. She decreased her medications and is learning to talk through her emotions.
“April keeps me grounded,” Emily said. “When I feel like I’m stumbling, she reminds me of my goals and passions. I know I have a bright future, but sometimes I need reminding.”
Working on such practical life skills as budgeting and time management, Emily sees that her dreams are within reach. She is in her first semester of college, pursuing forensic anthropology. She has a bank account and reached her goal of buying her own car.
“Any resources we offer, Emily takes advantage,” April said. “I am so proud of how far she has come.”
Emily has all A’s and B’s in school and volunteers at an animal shelter. She hopes to become a YV Scholar.
“April and Leslie have helped me enjoy life again,” Emily said. “I’m hopeful for my future.”
Learn more about how the YVLifeSet program helps young adults aging out of foster care at YVLifeSet.org.
Emily, 11, has always had a bubbly personality. When she entered Megan and Joey’s adoptive home, she was nervous about staying with strangers, but they made her feel right at home.
“Within hours of arriving at our house, Emily came out of her shell and became the bright and happy girl she naturally is,” Megan said. “She clicked with our family immediately.”
Despite Emily’s cheerful demeanor, Megan could see the hurt in her eyes.
“Emily was so determined to make the best out of her situation,” Megan said. “She was masking a lot of hidden darkness and trauma that had not been addressed.”
Emily grew up in an abusive home. The years of neglect and sexual abuse caused extreme anxiety. In Megan and Joey’s home, she had the loving environment to begin the challenging work of coping with her past.
“Emily mentioned several times that she feels safe with Megan and Joey,” said Amanda Bowers, Youth Villages family intervention specialist. “This security is why she has made such progress emotionally.”
For the first time since leaving her biological home, Emily was willing and motivated to work through her past. Amanda taught her coping skills for her anxiety. She learned to relax and feel comfortable talking through her feelings.
“With time, love, trust and therapy, Emily’s fears and anxiety have decreased significantly,” Megan said. “After being here for more than a year, she is no longer consumed by anxiety. She is at peace.”