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Social policy center recognizes Youth Villages program for making a difference for foster youth

January 24, 2014


Youth Villages’ transitional living program was named one of 15 local, state and national youth- and family-serving initiatives making a critical difference in the lives of youth in foster care by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, a national organization based in Washington, D.C.

The program, pioneered in Tennessee and now serving youth in five other states, was recognized because of its commitment to building qualities that help young people – particularly those in the child welfare system – mitigate or eliminate risk and promote healthy development and well-being. Since 1999, it has helped more than 6,000 former foster children make a successful transition to adulthood.

Approximately 26,000 young adults age out of foster care every year in the United States. National studies have found that, with limited resources and supports, these young people are more likely than their peers to end up homeless or incarcerated and less likely to have a job or go to college. In contrast, even two years after completing Youth Villages’ transitional living program, about 80 percent of participants are living independently or with family; are in school, graduated or employed; and are crime-free.

“Helping former foster children become successful, productive adults is both morally right and good for our communities,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. “We’re grateful for the work the Center for the Study of Social Policy is doing to support outcomes-driven programs making a difference for vulnerable youth.”

In October, Tennessee became the first state in the country to offer comprehensive services to help all foster children who age out of state custody. Through a partnership with Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services, Youth Villages’ transitional living program is in the fourth year of a rigorous randomized evaluation designed to test the program’s outcomes as compared to traditional services available in the community. The study, coordinated by MDRC, a nonprofit education and social policy research organization, and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, has followed more than 1,300 Tennessee young people and should yield preliminary results next year.


The 15 initiatives selected by CSSP as exemplary all exemplify CSSP’s Youth Thrive™ framework, which is built around five research-informed factors: youth resilience, social connections and concrete support in times of need, knowledge of adolescent development, cognitive and social-emotional competence in youth.

Youth Villages will provide CSSP and the child welfare field with on-the-ground examples of policies, training and programs that operationalize the Youth Thrive protective and promotive factors. That information will be used to help influence program and public policy change across the country.

“These 15 programs represent organizations and agencies that are achieving outcomes that are truly improving the well-being of very vulnerable youth,” said Susan Notkin, CSSP associate director. “They share a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities adolescents face, the impact of trauma they have experienced and the commitment needed to stick with them, no matter what.”

Programs were selected from more than 130 nominees and were chosen after a rigorous review that included a detailed written application, extensive site visits and interviews with youth, families and staff.

The selected programs are:

  • Anu Family Service, St. Paul, Minn.
  • Center for Fostering Success- Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Mich.
  • Child Well Being Project-Catawba County Social Services, Hickory, N.C.
  • FAME-Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
  • FosterEd, Oakland, Calif.
  • Just Like Me-Family Support Services of North Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.
  • MAAC/EmpowerMEnt, Atlanta, Ga.
  • My Life Project-Portland State University, Portland, Ore.
  • Next Generation Center-Children’s Aid Society, New York, N.Y.
  • Youth Advisory Board-Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center, Mechanicsburg, Penn.
  • Personal Best for Teens-Ackerman Institute, New York, N.Y.
  • PHILLIPS Family Partners, Annandale, Va.
  • Unconditional Care Model-Seneca Family of Agencies, San Francisco, Calif.
  • Trauma Informed Care-SaintA, Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Transitional Living Program-Youth Villages, Memphis, Tenn.
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