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National policy experts panel discusses YVLifeSet’s effectiveness in Capitol Hill roundtable

May 22, 2015
Mark Courtney,  a professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, was the principal investigator for a key study of the Youth Villages YVLifeSet program.

Mark Courtney, a professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, was the principal investigator for a key study of the Youth Villages YVLifeSet program. More photos below.

A panel of national policy and research experts met on Capitol Hill May 20 before an audience of state and federal policymakers to discuss evidence that the Youth Villages YVLifeSet program improves outcomes for former foster youth.

[You can watch the entire roundtable discussion at the bottom of this post.]

Hosted by Results for America and Youth Villages, the event featured researchers from national social services research nonprofit MDRC and the University of Chicago, who presented the results of the largest study to date conducted on a program helping former foster youth transition into adulthood in the United States. The rigorous, randomized trial shows promising results and implications in multiple areas for how to effectively help one of the country’s most vulnerable populations – the 23,000 young people who turn 18 and age out of foster care systems each year.

“It is the largest, rigorous evaluation ever conducted for services for this population,” said Dr. Erin Valentine, lead author of the MDRC study.

Researchers followed more than 1,300 young people who aged out state custody in Tennessee who were randomly assigned to receive either Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet services or other available services in the community. The one-year results from the study showed that the YVLifeSet program increased participants’ economic well-being and earnings, improved mental health, and decreased the likeliness of homelessness and domestic or partner violence. One-year results of the program did not show statistically significant impacts in education, criminal involvement or social support.

“Overall, YVLifeSet had a number of positive impacts on important outcomes,” Valentine said. “As far as the size of the impacts, they are consistent with the type of individualized program that this is. In addition, the impacts are very important. This is the only program that has been found to be effective through rigorous research across a wide range of issues for these very vulnerable young people.”

Read more…

White House honors foster care youth as ‘Champions of Change’

May 19, 2015

Watch the entire event on Youtube.

Today the White House honored 12 former foster youth as “Champions of Change” who are making a difference in their communities. In addition to honoring these young people for their courage, resilience, and contributions, the event highlighted their commitment to furthering their education. The event showcased the stories and work of these inspirational leaders as a part of National Foster Care Month.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

Among the honorees were Mary Lee, national coordinator for Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program, and Sixto Cancel, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and member of Youth Villages’ YV Scholar program.

Mary Lee

Mary Lee

Mary Lee, Memphis, Tennessee
Mary Lee, Esq., serves as National YVLifeSet Coordinator for Youth Villages, a national children’s services nonprofit headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. YVLifeSet helps provide vulnerable young adults, some of whom are aging out of foster care, with the skills necessary to achieve their fullest potential. At Youth Villages, Lee helped to establish the YV Scholars program, which offers young adults in YVLifeSet additional support to meet their educational goals. One of Lee’s greatest achievements was helping ensure foster youth adopted from state custody would not have to choose between being adopted by a family and pursuing higher education, as she did. Her story inspired the Fostering Adoption to Further Student Achievement Act (nicknamed the Mary Lee Act). Mary Lee is a graduate of Austin Peay State University and The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.

Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel, Richmond, Virginia
Sixto Cancel is a college student and a Young Adult Consultant with the Children’s Bureau, working in the Center for State Capacity. As a commitment maker for the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), Cancel founded Think of Us, a non-profit dedicated to innovating with data, technology and multi-media to serve vulnerable populations. His dedication to helping young people succeed in life started in high school with Stellar Works, his initiative to provide SAT and remedial education programing for students in foster care. He has also served as a member of the National Foster Care and Alumni Policy Council, as an advisory member to the American Institutes for Research LGBTQQA Advisory Board, and currently serves as a board member of the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Cancel is a fourth year student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Youth Villages congratulates Mary and Sixto on this tremendous honor!

Mentors help Fred travel a different path

May 18, 2015

Fred2015Fred recently was hired by a national airline to work in their computer-programming department.

It’s the culmination of years of hard work and making tough choices. It’s the beginning of a new chapter, one where Fred has begun to give back and share his story.

“I want to write a book about coming out of this,” he said. “A message of hope, a message of coming out of foster care, forgiving your parents and being the change you want to see happen.”

At the core of Fred’s journey were the people who guided, mentored and supported him through triumphs and difficulties. Fred didn’t choose the easy way. He was valedictorian at his high school and graduated cum laude from Jackson State University. Fred didn’t stumble into success. He made it through careful choices and has laid the groundwork to do more.

During high school, he met former NFL player Tyrone Keys. They formed a quick and close bond through a common coach, Odell Jenkins. After high school, Fred enrolled at Mississippi State University and earned a spot on the football team as a walk-on. Keys, who also played football at MSU, saw a lot of himself in Fred.

“Fred showed leadership qualities when he was in high school,” Keys said. “But I’m just one of a whole lot of people who are helping — it takes a team.”

At Mississippi State, Fred began participating in YVLifeSet, a Youth Villages program that helps former foster youth make a successful transition to adulthood. Fred’s story was well known among staff at Youth Villages, and after he spoke with Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler during the organization’s annual conference, Fred had found another team member.

“I surrounded myself with wise people and heeded their advice,” Fred said. “I can’t emphasize enough how important mentors were to me.”

Because of responsibilities to his family in addition to many other expenses and a full courseload in college, Fred chose to stop playing football and to focus on school. Fred said his heart wasn’t in it any more. Keys was also there. He told Fred that football wasn’t for everyone.

“Fred had been blessed to travel a different path,” Keys said. “He’s one of a kind. All kids don’t wake up at the same time.”

Out of football, Fred focused on his studies. Keys tells a story about an extracurricular program Fred was a part of that required a presentation. Fred put the presentation together on his cellular phone. He told Fred he should consider computer programming as a career.

In the meantime, Lawler was learning more about young people in the YVLifeSet program.

“I remember asking during a meeting, ‘How many more like Fred does Youth Villages have?'” Lawler said. “‘Who’s been pulled down by life, trauma and a lack of confidence?'”

From there, YVLifeSet expanded and changed into a service customized for each young person. In YVLifeSet, Fred had the support to push himself to do more. In turn, he challenged the YVLifeSet program.

“At first we didn’t have the means to be more individual with the service, but Fred inspired us,” Lawler said. “We began to look more closely at what the young people needed.”

Fred was one of the original 12 YVLifeSet youth who launched the YV Scholars program. These 12 received extra support for college provided they maintained rigorous academic and community service requirements.

“We decided to grow and expand the YVLifeSet program into the YV Scholars,” Lawler said. “Fred, as well as others, became ambassadors for us and our programs.”

At Jackson State University, Fred continued his education and aggressively sought internships. He relied on family supports to help with his two children, and often volunteered for Jackson-area civic groups and nonprofits. He began telling his story wherever he could. He maintained a cadre of mentors, people who counseled and listened to him.

“YVLifeSet helped me with what I needed,” Fred said. “It was a two-way street. I had the confidence someone had my back, and YVLifeSet was there to assist me when I needed help.”

Fred expects an adjustment period to get used to his new surroundings and new job, but his passion for helping others continues.

“I understand it’s not about me any more,” he said in a 2013 profile from Jackson State University. “…It’s about going back and sharing what I have been through and inspiring others that they can make it.”

Charlotte youth will enjoy extracurricular activities thanks to cornhole fundraiser

May 15, 2015

Recently more than 60 community members braved the heat at Rooftop210 at the EpiCentre in Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in Youth Villages’ second annual Cornhole Tournament, presented by Bank of the Ozarks.

The event – which featured a raffle, prizes and live music – benefited young people receiving help at Youth Villages. Over the past two years the event has raised a total of $6,055 to allow troubled youth the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities they otherwise would be unable to afford – such as summer camps, after-school programs and sports teams.

A special young man, Nathan, and his mother, Ronya, shared their heartwarming story of funds from the event creating a positive change in their family.

“Nathan was able to participate in basketball and football. I would like to thank Youth Villages for their support,” Ronya said.

BankofOzarksThanks to the generosity of event participants and presenting sponsor Bank of the Ozarks, children at Youth Villages will be able to move closer to finding long-term success in life.

“Bank of the Ozarks places a priority on investing in the Charlotte community and we are so very proud to partner with Youth Villages to make sure disadvantaged children have the opportunity to thrive,” said Cindy Wolfe, President, Carolinas Division Bank of the Ozarks.

Thank you to all who turned out to support Youth Villages mission to help troubled children and their families live successfully!

Congratulations to the winning teams: 1st – Silent Types, 2nd – Honeycutt It Out, 3rd – Final Frontier.

See our Flickr gallery for more photos from the event.

Study Shows Boost to Positive Outcomes for Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care and Juvenile Justice

May 12, 2015

Large, Rigorous Study Shows Youth Villages Program Increases Economic Well-being, Reduces Homelessness

MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, released encouraging results today from a rigorous evaluation of Youth Villages’ transitional living program, called YVLifeSet, for young adults aging out of the foster care and juvenile justice systems. After one year, the program boosted earnings, increased housing stability and economic well-being, and improved outcomes related to health and safety for a population of very disadvantaged young people.

Read the full study on

Read the full study on

Young people who have spent time in the foster care or juvenile justice systems often experience poor outcomes as adults. Compared with their peers, they are less likely to obtain a high school credential or be employed, and more likely to experience homelessness, criminal justice involvement and mental health concerns, among other issues. The largest random assignment evaluation of a program serving this population, the MDRC study shows that YVLifeSet is one of the only programs that improves multiple outcomes for youth turning 18 and aging out of foster care and juvenile justice.

MDRC, with Mark Courtney of the University of Chicago, conducted a rigorous random assignment study of the YVLifeSet program in Tennessee, involving more than 1,300 young adults. The evaluation is being funded by The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Key findings after one year of follow-up include:

  • The program boosted earnings by 17 percent, increased housing stability and economic well-being (including a 22 percent decrease in the likelihood of experiencing homelessness), and improved some of the primary outcomes related to health and safety (including improvements in mental health and a decrease in intimate partner violence). It has not yet shown significant improvement in outcomes in the areas of education, social support or criminal involvement.
  • The program was found to be equally effective across different subgroups of youth, including youth with and without histories of juvenile justice custody.

“Until now, research on programs for young people aging out of foster care or juvenile justice systems has shown just how difficult it is to make a positive difference in their lives,” said MDRC President Gordon Berlin. “The Youth Villages intervention stands out as one program that demonstrably improves these young people’s well-being across a wide range of outcomes. Understanding whether these gains are sustained will be critically important.”

YVLifeSet provides intensive, individualized and clinically focused case management, support and services to young adults with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody. Young people participating in the program meet once a week – and often more – with their YVLifeSet specialist, who is trained in helping young adults navigate all aspects of adulthood. The specialist helps young people identify their goals and develop the life skills needed to reach those goals and to live successfully and independently. Specialists are on call 24/7 for the young people as they work on education, career, housing, financial, relationship and health goals.

Since Youth Villages started the YVLifeSet program in 1999, more than 7,500 young adults have participated in Tennessee, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oregon, Florida, and Georgia.

“These young people are often the most vulnerable youth in our communities,” said Patrick Lawler, Youth Villages CEO. “At Youth Villages, we measure all our work, and in the late ’90s, we noticed that older teens who had spent the most time in foster care were the youth who had the worst outcomes. We developed the YVLifeSet program in 1999 to address their needs specifically. We’ve gotten great results with the program and are excited that the study shows the program’s effectiveness.”

Results for America and Youth Villages are convening a roundtable of experts to discuss the findings and their broader policy implications on May 20, 8:30-10:30 am, in 2168 Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. To register, visit

In 2016, MDRC will release two-year impact findings based on administrative data in the education, employment and earnings, and criminal involvement domains, as well as findings from a benefit-cost analysis.

Spring Celebration raises record total for Youth Villages’ programs in New England

May 5, 2015
“I once was afraid, but I have found hope and the people at Youth Villages gave me that.  They are truly some of the most heartfelt, genuine humans I have ever met and they will always have a special place in my heart.”  — Jonathan, featured speaker at Youth Villages Spring Celebration

“I once was afraid, but I have found hope and the people at Youth Villages gave me that. They are truly some of the most heartfelt, genuine humans I have ever met and they will always have a special place in my heart.”
— Jonathan, featured speaker at the Youth Villages Massachusetts Spring Celebration

This year’s Youth Villages Massachusetts Spring Celebration was a record-breaking success!

We are grateful to the 330 supporters who joined us Tuesday, April 28, at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in downtown Boston. The event raised a record-breaking $582,000 to help even more young adults aging out of foster care through the YVLifeSet program.

We give special thanks to the evening’s honoree, Gerald Chertavian, event co-chairs, Yvette Lowenthal-Mulderry and Kim Syman, our amazing event committee, and our event sponsors without whom this event would not have been possible.

Donate It is not too late to give the gift of a good start to a young adult aging out of foster care by supporting the YVLifeSet program in Massachusetts. Please consider a donation today.

View a photo gallery from the evening and watch the video below to learn about the positive impact YVLifeSet has on young adults aging out of foster care.

Thank you to our event sponsors:


Sandy and Paul Edgerley

Joanna and Jon Jacobson

Yvette and Peter Mulderry



Amy and David Abrams

Maurice and Luly Samuels



Kate and Gerald Chertavian

Tim and Maureen Dibble

Beth and Seth Klarman

Stephanie and Matt Magee

Lauren and Joseph Mazzella

Marion and David Mussafer

Brian and Stephanie Spector

Kim Syman and J.B. Lyon



and Dr. Lisette Cooper

Joe and MaryLynn Antonellis

Devin and Erin Condron

Fran and David Davidson

Michael and Barbara Eisenson

Daniel and Shoshana Farb

Donna and David Frieze

Elizabeth and Peter Georgantas

Lisa and Stephen Lebovitz

Sara and Joshua Ross

Rosalyn and Richard Slifka

Jill and Michael Stansky

Jennifer and Seth Stier

Caron and Kevin Tabb




Sara and Michael Bernstein

Gary Goshgarian & Kathleen Krueger

Lisa and Mike Josephson

Catherine Madden and Vikram Savkar

Spring Celebration Committee

Event Co-Chairs: Yvette Lowenthal-Mulderry* and Kim Syman*

Erin Condron, Rachel Deering, Donna Frieze, Jamie Genser, Elizabeth Georgantas, Joanna Jacobson*, Beth Klarman*, Pamela Lynch, Catherine Madden, Stephanie Magee, Mark O’Donnell*, Francine Rosenzweig, Kevin Tabb*

*Member of Youth Villages Massachusetts Board

Bayes Impact to help Youth Villages enhance Intercept program for children and families

April 29, 2015
Sarah Hurley, Ph. D., managing director - data science for Youth Villages (center) is working with data scientists Stephan Gabler (left) and Medhi Jamei of Bayes Impact to find trends and answer questions that can lead to program enhancements.

Sarah Hurley, Ph. D., managing director – data science for Youth Villages (center), is working with data scientists Stephan Gabler (left) and Mehdi Jamei of Bayes Impact to find trends and answer questions that can lead to program enhancements.

Youth Villages is excited to partner with Bayes Impact, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that aims to bring data science solutions to big social problems, on a project that will help enhance Youth Villages’ positive results for children and families.

Bayes Impact draws data scientists from some of the largest technology companies and universities, including Google, Eventbrite and Uber, to serve for a time as Bayes Fellows, who use their skills for the greater social good.

In their Youth Villages project, the Bayes Fellows will study Youth Villages’ extensive data resources, including clinical and staff data, for factors that influence long-term outcomes for youth served in Youth Villages’ Intercept® program. They will use sophisticated data engineering and statistical techniques to find trends and answer questions that can lead to program enhancements.

“We’ve always wanted to use our data to answer this one big question,” said Sarah Hurley, Ph.D., managing director of data science for Youth Villages. “‘What program activities are most likely to produce a positive long-term outcome for youth and families with a particular set of characteristics?’”

The project not only will help answer this specific question, but also will provide Youth Villages with a set of tools for answering additional questions about the clinical and operational aspects of programs. This knowledge transfer is a critical part of Bayes Impact’s work, as it extends the impact of the Fellows far beyond each project by enabling the organization to carry on the data science work. With the help of Bayes Impact and their data scientists, Youth Villages will be able to make substantial improvements to our services for youth and families.

“Youth Villages with its evidence-based methods is the perfect partner for a data science project,” said Stephan Gabler, Bayes Impact data scientist. “They have the data and they are willing to change their behavior based on new insight.”

More than 15 years of detailed outcomes evaluation have placed Youth Villages at the forefront of applied research in the treatment of children with emotional and behavioral problems and their families. In this field of research, Youth Villages has accumulated one of the most extensive datasets in the country. Led by Hurley, the research department collects and analyzes data gathered from youth in all Youth Villages programs, then uses the findings to make program and organization improvements. By partnering with a nonprofit like Bayes Impact, Youth Villages’ extensive data and research can reach their greatest potential.


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