Youth Villages’ inaugural KiteTales: Stories that Soar event at the Mint Museum Uptown raised more than $50,000 to help youth aging out of foster care in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The evening featured stories from musician and New York Times best-selling author Jimmy Wayne and Tristin, a participant in YVLifeSet, a Youth Villages program helping youth aging out of foster care find long-term success. Nan Gray, regional marketing director for Sprint, and Ramona Holloway, co-host of the Matt & Ramona Show, were also on hand to help emcee the event.
“Even though others [my family] might not see me as a great person, there are a thousand other people that approve of you. Youth Villages taught me that I can be a great person,” Tristin said.
At the close of the evening, Youth Villages North Carolina presented Jimmy Wayne the inaugural KiteTales Award to recognize him for his work with foster children throughout the country and particularly in his home state of North Carolina.
Youth Villages is grateful for the generous support of Coca-Cola Consolidated and Piedmont Natural Gas as lead sponsors of the event.
“Coca-Cola Consolidated is proud to support Youth Villages as they aim to help every youth aging out of foster care in Charlotte,” said Dave Katz, senior vice president, Coca-Cola Consolidated.
“Youth Villages and YVLifeSet are providing one of the country’s best approaches to helping former foster care kids. Piedmont Natural Gas is honored to support their efforts and the KiteTales event,” said Timothy Greenhouse, managing director of community relations at Piedmont Natural Gas.
Learn more about Youth Villages’ work in North Carolina at youthvillages.org/nc.
Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts
Norman Sound & Productions
Something Classic Catering & Daisy Catering
Neglected as she moved from one relative’s home to the next, Kristin, 12, entered state custody when she was only 2 years old. She was also exposed to domestic violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction.
Kristin spent a year in Youth Villages’ intensive residential treatment to address challenging behaviors. Meanwhile, John and Melissa Miller were training to become foster parents.
“The timing was meant to be,” Melissa said. “We didn’t know what to expect as new foster parents, but Kristin captured our hearts. By the end of our first weekend together, we couldn’t imagine life without her.”
With consistent and attentive parenting, Kristin’s defiance disappeared. John and Melissa signed an intent to adopt as quickly as possible. Eight days later, the adoption was finalized.
“Being Kristin’s mother feels like I am fulfilling my calling,” Melissa said. “John and I find pure joy in providing the love and support she has always deserved.”
Melissa and John enrolled Kristin in horseback riding lessons. Kristin wants to become a veterinarian, and they regularly volunteer at the local animal hospital. Kristin’s grades have never been better, and she looks forward to attending private school in the fall.
“This happy ending reflects the amazing teamwork of Youth Villages and the Department of Children’s Services,” said Joli LaRoche, Youth Villages adoption specialist. “Thanks to everyone’s efforts, Kristin found her forever family.”
Groups joining together to end youth homelessness
A Way Home America, a new national initiative to build a movement to prevent and end homelessness among young people, launching this month.
Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program is one of the country’s largest helping former foster youth – a group that is statistically more likely to experience homelessness and housing insecurity.
“Youth Villages is pleased to be part of the effort to end youth homelessness,” said Amanda Rivera, manager of federal policy for Youth Villages. “We know that effective help for young people makes a difference.”
The launch of A Way Home America corresponds with the White House Policy Briefing on Ending Youth Homelessness co-hosted by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the True Colors Fund. More than 50 different organizations addressing youth homelessness are involved in A Way Home America, including the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which leads the coordinated federal response to homelessness, and its member agencies.
Results from an MDRC randomized controlled trial of the YVLifeSet program released last year showed that participants experienced a 22 percent decrease in the likelihood of experiencing homelessness.
“The program’s effect on homelessness is a huge deal, particularly because it’s not a housing program,” said Mark Courtney, Ph.D., recently at a Capitol Hill forum focusing on effective programs for transition-age youth. A professor in the School of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago, Courtney was the principal investigator in the MDRC study and in the Midwest Study, one of the largest research projects involving former foster youth.
Although program participants did see increased earnings and economic wellbeing, Courtney said the housing outcomes “most likely came from helping the young people do whatever they needed to do, whatever it took to avoid homelessness.”
A Way Home America’s efforts build on “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”
Partnerships, new approaches highlight forum on scaling effective practices to help former foster youth
Every year about 26,000 young people in the United States turn 18 and age out of foster care without ever being united with their biological families or finding a new one through adoption. They are one of the country’s most vulnerable populations, more likely to be homeless, never reach education milestones, to face unemployment and incarceration.
Last week, the American Youth Policy Forum hosted a Capitol Hill briefing highlighting the need to expand effective programs capable of helping transition-age youth overcome challenges and go on to be successful, independent adults. The forum was co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.
Moderated by David Sanders, Ph.D, executive vice president of systems improvement for Casey Family Programs, the briefing examined the Youth Villages YVLifeSet program and ways to improve federal and state systems to better meet the needs of transition-age youth.
“This is about a system that fails to provide the kind of services and support that young people need to be able to become contributing adults,” Sanders said. “Twenty-eight percent of all children in out-of-home care are teenagers. Nearly half have been in care for two years or longer and don’t have a case plan goal that supports permanency. How do we support permanency so youth are not leaving care without families? Right now the pipeline is not very encouraging.”
On the panel were Mark Courtney, Ph.D, professor in social services administration at the University of Chicago; Mike Leach, director of independent living for Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services; Jeff Rainey, senior executive for strategic advancement at the YMCA of Greater Seattle; and Justice Rutherford, a 20-year-old YVLifeSet participant from Memphis, Tennessee.
Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler described the development of the program. By 2015, YVLifeSet had helped more than 8,000 former foster and disconnected youth in seven states and had shown significant impact in the country’s largest randomized controlled study. The organization began to study how to scale the program to reach every young person who ages out of care each year.
“It seemed like too big a hill for us to climb ourselves,” Lawler said. “And the numbers fluctuate. We know that there are young people who are 19, 20, 21 and 22 who still need help now. Read more…
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