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Youth Villages chief clinical officer offers testimony about juvenile justice to U.S. House committee

October 8, 2015

Tim Goldsmith, Ph.D., testified this morning to the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee in Washington, D.C., on how young people involved in the nation’s juvenile justice system can benefit from effective intensive in-home programs.

Dr. Goldsmith has served as chief clinical officer of Youth Villages since 1989.

Below is Dr. Goldsmith’s submitted statement:
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Melissa Joan Hart visits with children at Youth Villages’ Bartlett Campus

October 6, 2015
Melissa Joan Hart plays a board game with boys at Youth Villages' Bartlett Campus during her Oct. 6 visit. See more photos below.

Melissa Joan Hart plays a board game with boys at Youth Villages’ Bartlett Campus during her Oct. 6 visit. See more photos below.

Melissa Joan Hart, actress famous for her roles in “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Melissa & Joey,” visited Youth Villages’ Bartlett Campus today to meet children receiving help there and give out gifts from her King of Harts boys clothing line. In addition to providing the boys with King of Harts gifts, Hart visited with girls receiving help at Youth Villages’ Girls Center for Intensive Residential Treatment.

“I had a wonderful visit with these amazing kids today,” Hart said. “Family is something very important to me, and I love the work Youth Villages is doing to strengthen families by providing care and love for these children who need it so much.”

A member of Youth Villages’ board of advocates, Hart selected Youth Villages as a charity partner for her King of Harts clothing line and appears in a fundraising television spot for Youth Villages.

“We love Melissa because she really cares for the kids we are helping at Youth Villages,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. “She has a big heart for kids and families and is a wonderful advocate for our work. The kids were so excited to visit with her today, and we are really grateful for all the ways she helps us.”

Hart and her husband, Mark Wilkerson, have three sons and launched the King of Harts boys clothing line in 2014. After noticing a gap in the marketplace for cool, casual, functional boys clothing, the design duo was inspired to start their own line. King of Harts launched in spring 2015 with the Montauk collection, each season’s styles take their cue from a city where Hart and her family have traveled. The Fall 2015 collection was inspired by Lake Tahoe, where Hart and her family spend much of their vacation time. Highlights for the season include colorful plaid flannels, unique graphic tees and denim in rugged washes. Prices range from $25- $82, and the collection is sold exclusively on Hart chose Youth Villages as the line’s charitable partner, with proceeds from the collection’s Louie Tee supporting Youth Villages’ programs.

Youth Villages hosts ‘The Life Set’ with best-selling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh

October 6, 2015


Youth Villages, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and families in Portland live successfully, will host “The Life Set,” an evening with New York Times best-selling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Thursday, Oct. 15 at Wieden + Kennedy, 224 NW 13th Ave. in Portland, Oregon.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Tickets to the event are $10, with proceeds benefitting Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program that helps former foster youth make a successful transition to adulthood. Tickets are available online at and at the door. Wine, beer and appetizers are included with the cost of admission and a no-host bar with spirits will be available for an additional cost.

Diffenbaugh, who drew attention to the hardships of youth aging out of foster care through “The Language of Flowers,” will discuss her novels and the social issues represented in them. She will sign books and answer questions from the audience in a panel discussion about key issues facing vulnerable youth in Portland. Diffenbaugh will be joined by Mary Lee, national coordinator of the YVLifeSet program for Youth Villages. Books will be available for purchase and attendees are welcome to bring their own books as well.

Diffenbaugh’s interest in supporting Youth Villages’ work, particularly the organization’s YVLifeSet program, was piqued by her passion for helping foster youth. Her debut novel, which spent 69 weeks on The New York Times best-sellers list and has been translated into more than 40 languages, is about a girl growing up in and aging out of foster care. She also will discuss her new novel, “We Never Asked for Wings.”

Teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities, Diffenbaugh and her husband, PK, a teacher by training, became intimately familiar with the needs of children growing up in foster care or with families who cannot adequately care for them. The couple eventually became foster and adoptive parents of Tre’von, now 23. Earlier this summer, the Diffenbaughs legally adopted Donovan, 25, whom they met as he was aging out of foster care. They are also the parents of Graciela, 9, and Miles, 7.

Following her literary success, Diffenbaugh co-founded Camellia Network, a nonprofit crowdfunding and social support platform to help former foster children that recently merged with Youth Villages and has been relaunched as the LifeSet Network, The site’s mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care with donors who will provide the critical resources, opportunities and support they need to thrive in adulthood.

Youth Villages launched YVLifeSet in 1999, to help children aging out of state care or juvenile justice placements make a successful transition into independent adulthood. Youth Villages also provides YVLifeSet in Oregon and seven other states and has helped more than 8,000 youth by providing guidance and support to help them achieve their independent living goals, including completing their high school education, going on to higher education, finding a job, finding stable housing, reconnecting with family when appropriate, learning to budget and more.

Youth Villages Oregon has been helping children and families live successfully in the state since 1859. We provide Intercept® intensive in-home, YVLifeSet and residential services to children and youth with emotional and behavior problems and their families. Using our Evidentiary Family Restoration™ approach, which involves intensive work with the child and family, a focus on measuring outcomes, keeping children in the community whenever safely possible, and providing accountability to families and funders, Youth Villages consistently produces lasting success for children.

One of the nation’s first and largest providers of intensive in-home services, Youth Villages this year will help more than 23,000 children and families in 12 states and Washington, D.C. The organization has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit

Saphire and mother learn to work as a team

September 25, 2015
Saphire (left), her mother, Yvonne, and sister, Zaiah

Saphire (left), her mother, Yvonne, and sister, Zaiah

Saphire, 17, and her mother, Yvonne, had given up on their relationship. They couldn’t have a simple conversation without fighting.

“When I began working with them, I begged Yvonne to give us time to see changes before deciding to put Saphire out of her home,” said Shandi Peters, Youth Villages family intervention specialist. “I also begged Saphire not to leave.”

Saphire was sad and had a temper. She lashed out when she was angry, throwing things, becoming aggressive and yelling. At age 5, she witnessed her father pass away and later experienced physical abuse. She has post traumatic stress disorder.

“Our home was a tornado before Shandi came,” Saphire said. “Not long ago, I was hospitalized after a drug overdose and Mom almost went to the hospital for her extreme anxiety.”

Yvonne and Saphire had tried numerous in-home therapy services and programs for youth with difficult behaviors. Nothing had worked. Youth Villages’ Intercept® intensive in-home program was a last resort.

“I had no energy left and I needed help,” Yvonne said. “I wanted Saphire locked up because I didn’t know how to deal with her.”

Yvonne and Saphire’s biggest hurdle was learning how to communicate with each other. When they fought, their communication broke down completely.

“Saphire would walk away from our fights, and I felt disrespected,” Yvonne said. “I thought she didn’t care about our relationship. But something clicked when Shandi explained that Saphire and I have different ways of handling our anger.”

With Shandi’s help, Yvonne learned that Saphire needed time to cool down.

“As soon as Saphire started seeing her mom make changes for her, she softened,” Shandi said. “Saphire realized they are in this together and started putting her all into their relationship.”

The Youth Villages Intercept program provides treatment to troubled children and families in their own homes. Treatment includes family therapy, mental health treatment, parenting skills education and resources for long-term support. Shandi met with the family an average of three times weekly and was on-call around the clock.

“We were full of hope after we noticed ourselves fighting less,” Yvonne said. “We took notes on each other and showed Shandi, hoping each week there would be more we could work on together.”

With Shandi’s help, Saphire and Yvonne have become a team. Saphire spends hours cleaning the house, and Yvonne never fails to thank her. They talk about their days together and joke about how often they used to fight.

“I’m really trying to use what Shandi taught us because it works,” Saphire said. “I will continue to get my life together so I can go to college and have a career. These are my dreams and I want them to come true.”

Saphire is taking extra academic credits to graduate on time while holding a part-time job. The house is calm and Yvonne is less anxious.

“Saphire is an amazing child,” Yvonne said. “She’s been through a lot, and she didn’t have to accept Shandi’s help. However, she did and our family has completely changed.”

Supporters provide backpacks and supplies for more than 300 children in New England through Youth Villages’ Sixth Annual Back-to-School Initiative

September 24, 2015

View more thank-you notes from youth and volunteers, along with photos from our Back to Shindig July 28 in Boston.

Thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, Youth Villages’ Sixth Annual Back-to-School Initiative was a success! Youth Villages was able to distribute backpacks filled with new school supplies to more than 300 children in our neediest families across New England. We couldn’t have done it without this tremendous support!

Youth Villages’ Jen McMurray, a Master’s level clinician, had the opportunity to see this first-hand. Read about her experience below:

I wanted to take the time to thank you for going above and beyond for Kristy and her going back to school gifts.

Kristy had been through a lot this year. She had previously been removed from her home due to excessive weight gain and parental neglect on this part. She continues to struggle with her weight. Kristy returned home from being in foster care and the custody of the Department of Children and Families. Her mother become very ill and passed away on June 3. Kristy struggled with this loss and struggled to get back into school mode.

This past week I was able to drop off the large bag of brand new clothes and a backpack full of all the school supplies she needed, in her favorite colors (red and black). I was able to see the smile on her face when I went through the items with her.

Kristy was overjoyed with every single item in her bag and was pleased to have new, different types of clothing available to her. Kristy is now enrolled in school in Lowell and is excited to be able to wear her new clothes and have a stylish new backpack to start the school year.

Thank you to everyone that went out of their ways to make sure that Kristy has a positive start to the school year.

Youth Villages enlists New York Fashion Week celebrities for a cause: helping former foster youth become successful adults

September 15, 2015

Fred Burns (left) with Orange is the New Black star Selenis Leyva.

Growing up in Mississippi, Fred Burns and his nine siblings didn’t think much about fashion; sometimes their clothes came from the neighborhood donation clothes closet.

But this week, Burns is all about threads and runways, as he joins the thousands participating in the glitz and glamour of events surrounding New York’s Fashion Week. His goal: to introduce fashion and entertainment celebrities to Youth Villages, a nonprofit organization driven to help the 23,000 young people who, like Fred, age out of foster care at 18 without support.

Burns joins Richard Shaw, chief development officer at Youth Villages, in one of only two booths designated for nonprofit organizations at an exclusive luxury gift and styling lounge by GBK Productions and Pilot Pen. While other participants are introducing celebrities and fashion journalists to trendy new luxury products, Youth Villages hopes to attract celebrities who want to make a difference in the lives of former foster youth across the country.
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Camellia Network partners with Youth Villages to enhance and expand network serving former foster children

August 19, 2015


Camellia Network, a nonprofit crowdfunding and social support platform to help former foster children, has merged with national nonprofit Youth Villages to enhance and expand the service, Camellia Network founder and best-selling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh announced today.

“This is exciting news for all of us who support former foster children through the Camellia Network,” Diffenbaugh said. “As a partner with Youth Villages’ renowned YVLifeSet program, the Network will be able to help many more young people who need our support. This partnership marries the Network’s technology and innovation with the national leader in social innovation and ‘doing what works’ for kids in foster care. We couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Renamed the LifeSet Network,, to reflect the new partnership, the website will continue to allow participants to help young people transitioning out of foster care attain their goals by crowdfunding needs registries the young people have designated essential to achieving a particular goal. For instance, supporters can buy a laptop for a young person who is entering college or a set of sheets and towels for a young person who is moving into her first apartment.


Diffenbaugh started Camellia Network four years ago with the proceeds from her best-selling book “The Language of Flowers,” and it has since given more than 300 former foster youth the chance to connect with more than 1,600 supporters who provide resources and helping relationships. The author’s second novel, “We Never Asked for Wings,” about motherhood and the challenges faced by immigrant families, was released Tuesday.

“We are immensely proud of what the Network has accomplished so far,” said Diffenbaugh, also a member of Youth Villages’ national board of directors. “But with 23,000 children aging out of the foster care system every year, we needed to find a way to scale bigger faster. Youth Villages is the perfect partner for that. Our supporters are excited about the opportunity to help more young adults and to have the advanced features the new website offers.”

Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program has helped more than 8,000 young people make a successful transition to adulthood since it began in 1999. The program’s focus on this most vulnerable population of youth is an intense one, with YVLifeSet specialists on call 24/7 for young people participating in the program. Specialists help the young people navigate all aspects of new adulthood, including budgeting, finding stable housing, completing education, finding and keeping employment and developing healthy relationships.

In addition to supporting emerging adults participating in Youth Villages’ own programs, the new LifeSet Network will continue to seek strategic partnerships with various other programs serving former foster youth. A pilot phase with participants in Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet program will lead to further enhancements in the Network as it is scaled to serve more young people. The Network’s goal is to provide an easy way for supporters to connect with young people in the YVLifeSet program and similar programs and fulfill their needs lists.’s updated responsive design will offer such new features as the ability to complete a young person’s registry with one click and enhanced search functions to help users more quickly find a young person they’re able to help.

“The LifeSet Network lets folks who want to support these young people who are close to achieving an important life goal easily help them with some concrete needs – the same way a parent would,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. “This platform helps showcase the incredible potential of these young adults and democratizes funding so virtually anyone can help.”

This merger follows Youth Villages’ recent completion of a rigorous, randomized trial of its YVLifeSet program, showing positive one-year results. The study, designed by The University of Chicago and conducted by the non-partisan social science research nonprofit organization MDRC, followed more than 1,300 young adults who had aged out of foster care or juvenile justice placements in Tennessee. The researchers found that, one year after program completion, the young people who participated in Youth Villages’ YVLifeSet services had achieved increased earnings and greater economic well-being, experienced better mental health, had greater housing stability and were less likely to be involved in a violent relationship than young people from the same backgrounds who received other services available in the community. For more information about the study, visit


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