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Youth Villages releases 10-year transitional living report; program has helped more than 5,000 young people aging out of foster care

November 2, 2012
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While former foster children nationally are more likely to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration, a report released today shows that young people in some states are achieving higher rates of success through a program that may save taxpayers more than $130 million in long-term costs.

The report gives 10 years of data on the Youth Villages transitional living program, which has helped more than 5,000 former foster children in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee since 2000. The program is most often funded through public/private partnerships between Youth Villages’ donors and state child welfare agencies. In Tennessee, the program is also part of a randomized rigorous evaluation that may bolster today’s report and lead to evidence-based solutions for helping former foster children across the country.

The report details the outcomes of more than 5,000 young people who have participated in the program since 2000. Findings include:

  • 84 percent of the young people who completed the program are successfully living independently or with family two years later.
  • 77 percent report no involvement with the law two years later.
  • 83 percent are in school, have graduated or are employed two years after completing the Youth Villages program.

“The TL program is a result of innovative financial partnerships,” said Patrick W. Lawler, Youth Villages’ chief executive officer. Since 1999, Youth Villages has invested $22.4 million in the program, including $6.5 million from its own employees giving through payroll deductions. In his lifetime, Memphis philanthropist Clarence Day contributed $7.5 million to help former foster children find success as adults. After his death, The Day Foundation gave a $42 million challenge grant to continue the program and support Youth Villages’ overall growth plans. The state of Tennessee has contributed $9 million toward the program over the past three years, and private donations are matched by the state in Massachusetts.

Using conservative cost figures for incarceration and probation services, Youth Villages estimates that states save $2.6 million for every 100 young adults who complete its transitional living program successfully. By cutting the national average for incarceration rates of former foster youth in half, savings add up to $130 million for program participants who achieved long-term success.

Angelica, above, is just one successful young adult for whom TL has made a huge difference. You can read her story, along with many other TL stories, on this blog.

Mark Courtney, senior researcher at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, is leading the study of the TL program conducted by MDRC, a national social service research group. The study is measuring the program’s effectiveness as compared to usual services in the community. Courtney is the principal investigator for the Midwest Evaluation of Former Foster Youth, the country’s most significant evaluation of youth who have aged out of foster care.

“The study of the Youth Villages transitional living program is one of the largest experimental evaluations ever conducted in the child welfare services field and the largest by far of a program focused on improving the transition to adulthood for foster youth,” Courtney said. “It will provide invaluable evidence to the field regarding ‘what works’ for foster youth.”

Researchers from MDRC already have begun one-year follow-ups with participants, with first findings due in 2015. The study is funded by the Edna McConnell Clark and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations.

The Youth Villages program provides specialists who help young people secure housing; pursue educational and employment goals; access health and mental health services; learn such independent living skills as budgeting, cooking, cleaning and shopping; and create and maintain healthy relationships with family and others.

Youth Villages continues to work with Tennessee and other states on public/private partnerships to expand and further support the transitional living program, with a goal of helping more young people who need the services.

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