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More than a decade of help in the home

April 3, 2010

Fifteen years after Youth Villages began sending counselors into homes to help troubled children by strengthening their families, the results are in.

The nonprofit organization recently released data showing that its family counselors have helped nearly 17,000 children with serious emotional and behavioral problems and their families since it began offering intensive in-home services in 1994.

Youth Villages helps children and families through intensive in-home services in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The data show that the program helped the children, who were in state custody or at risk of entering the foster care or juvenile justice system, achieve long-term stability at home. Some 84 percent of the children who completed at least 60 days of service were living successfully at home two years after the program ended; 82 percent reported no trouble with the law; and 83 percent were in school or had graduated.

“The program has been a catalyst for change in child welfare, juvenile justice and children’s mental health services in states that want to provide research-based services as part of overall reform,” said Patrick W. Lawler, chief executive officer of Youth Villages. “We’ve been able to help states reduce the number of children in state custody, decrease their costs and provide highly effective help to families.”

Instead of taking children out of the home for help, this Youth Villages program sends counselors into the home for intensive therapy sessions at least three times a week. Instead of only child-centered therapy, Youth Villages’ counselors focus on all areas that impact a child’s behavior, including family, school, peers and the community. Counselors hold therapy sessions at kitchen tables and in living rooms, meeting at the parents’ convenience, not a 9-to-5 office schedule. They are available to families 24/7 in case of emergency.

Youth Villages began offering intensive in-home services after a survey of juvenile court and children’s services in 1994 found a lack of help for troubled families. The organization searched nationally for a treatment model for the new program and discovered Multisystemic Therapy, a family-based approach being developed by Scott Henggeler, Ph.D., at the Family Services Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

MST is one of the only treatment models ever proven effective in helping young people with serious antisocial behaviors who are at risk of placement out of the home. Youth Villages was one of the first organizations to use MST outside of clinical trials and today provides in-home services using MST throughout North Carolina, in Washington, D.C., Dallas and Dothan. Ala.

In Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Virginia, Youth Villages provides in-home services using its own family-based therapy program, called Intercept.

“Youth Villages is recognized nationally as one of the real vanguards in the movement to help children find permanency through providing supports to their families,” said Page Walley, a managing director of Casey Family Services. Walley served as commissioner of children’s services in both Tennessee and Alabama.

Youth Villages’ drive toward family-based treatment for children with serious emotional and behavioral problems has brought it national recognition. In 2009, the organization was cited by President Obama in his effort to find innovative “what works” solutions through his White House Office of Social Innovation. Youth Villages is mentioned regularly with other high-performing organizations such as Harlem’s Children’s Zone, Nurse Family Partnership and Citizens Schools. The nonprofit’s growth was also a case study for the Harvard Business School this year.

In 2010, Youth Villages will help more than 15,000 children and families through intensive in-home services, residential treatment, foster care and adoption, transitional living services, mentoring and crisis intervention. For more information about Youth Villages, visit www.youthvillages.org.

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