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VOL. 126 | NO. 150 | Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Youth Villages Receives $42M Grant

By Aisling Maki

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Youth Villages, a Memphis-based national organization that provides a wide array of services to children and families in 11 states and Washington, will receive the largest grant in the organization’s history, and one of the largest ever awarded to a social services organization.

Patrick Lawler, CEO of Youth Villages, speaks with Demetrius, 9, and Austin, 10, at the Bartlett Campus of Youth Villages.
(Daily News Photo/Lance Murphey)

The Day Foundation has announced it will donate a $42 million legacy challenge grant that primarily will be used to expand the organization’s transitional living (TL) program, which helps older foster children become successful adults.

The foundation was founded by philanthropist Clarence Day, a longtime Youth Villages supporter who donated more than $14 million to the organization before his death in 2009.

“Youth Villages’ TL program provides at-risk young adults with the skills and lessons necessary to become successful adults,” said Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. “We are so grateful to the Day Foundation for helping strengthen and grow this important program in Memphis and around the country. With matching support from local or state governments or private individuals and foundations, we can expand transitional living services to more young people here who desperately need it.”

Because the transitional living program is funded mostly through private donations, the grant is critical in helping Youth Villages maintain and expand the TL program.

While Youth Villages is helping 1,452 young adults this year through the TL program in Tennessee – including 335 in West Tennessee so far in 2011 – and seven other states, there are thousands more in need.

The $42 million grant will be paid over five years. Temporarily restricted, it’s to be accessed when Youth Villages raises matching funds from states or private donors. The grant and its matching funds will allow Youth Villages to serve approximately 9,000 young adults through TL over the next five years.

Youth Villages employees give back annually through payroll deductions for the Our Family Campaign and have been one of the largest private sources of funds for the TL program. Since 1999, employees have given more than $6 million to help older foster children make the transition to adulthood.

While the biggest portion of the grant will fund Youth Villages’ TL program, including the creation of a TL endowment, a portion will also go toward needed capital improvements, as well as a new five-year growth plan to serve more children and families in the Mid-South and across the country.

Nearly half of former foster children nationally are unemployed at age 21. Nearly a quarter don’t hold a high school diploma or GED, and nearly 1 in 5 experiences homelessness after leaving foster care.

The Youth Villages TL program helps young people build support systems, find and keep adequate housing, complete or continue their education, find and keep employment, access health care and learn life skills.

Since the program began, it has helped more than 4,000 young adults find success, defined as living at home, working or going to school and having no involvement with the law. Youth Villages’ researchers track each program participant, and even two years after completing the TL program, 84 percent of the youth were living at home or independently; 75 percent had no further trouble with the law; and 81 percent were in school, had earned their high-school diploma or GED or were employed.

Youth Villages helps emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. One of the country’s first providers of intensive in-home services, the organization provides a wide array of services and this year will help more than 18,000 children and families nationwide.

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