VOL. 132 | NO. 228 | Thursday, November 16, 2017
Expanding Its Reach
By Don Wade
His was a story as tragic as it is familiar. E. Young had immediate family members in a gang. More than one gang tried to recruit him. His parents were in no way equipped to raise him.
When he moved in with an aunt, Phyllis Brown, he was by his own words “angry, depressed.”
Youth Villages’ first efforts to help him were met with great resistance. The first three counselors couldn’t connect with him. Then came the fourth, LaKeitha Burns-Baker, a specialist in the YVLifeSet program, which since 1999 has been providing the most vulnerable young people with support to become productive adults through educational/vocational training and the teaching of life skills.
“She listened,” Young told an audience of almost 2,000 Youth Villages employees at the closing of the recent employee conference held in Memphis and in part at the Cook Convention Center. “She opened herself up to me, told me about her life.”
Cliff Reyle, chief human resourace and information officer at Youth Villages, speaks during the last day of the 2017 Youth Villages Employee Conference. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
This was Youth Villages’ 21st Employee Conference and about 1,800 of the nonprofit organization’s 3,000 employees from across the country attended.
Stories such as this one are important for all employees to hear. Not everyone in Youth Villages is working on the front lines.
This story did not end with Burns-Baker being able to establish some rapport with Young. She also had to be able to communicate with Brown so Brown and Young could relate to one another better.
“At first, I really didn’t want to receive her,” Brown told the audience. “Who was she to come in here and share all this? I was angry.”
But gradually Burns-Baker made progress, Brown said, adding, “She was calming me down and I allowed (my nephew) to speak without interrupting him … she gave me hope.”
Today, Young is in a dual enrollment program that upon high school graduation also will have him well on his way toward making real progress toward a college degree.
“He’s happy and has a bright and promising future,” Brown said.
“Youth Villages helped me open up,” Young said. “I’m more trusting of people. Someone new comes into my life and I’m not hostile … Y’all like some guardian angels.”
Other news from the Youth Villages Employee Conference:
This year’s Clarence Day Legacy Award was given to Woody McCutchen, a managing director at Blue Meridian Partners, which has been involved with Youth Villages for the past 12 years. McCutchen has been a huge part of the organization’s growth planning and expansion.
“This conference is on my schedule every year,” he said. “It’s the most inspiring thing that happens in my year.”
Youth Villages also is expanding its YVLifeSet program through an innovative approach, partnering with other high-quality organizations or providers in states where they are currently not providing direct services. The first program launched last year in Seattle. A partnership with Turning Points in Philadelphia launched last month, and coming in 2018 are partnerships with Allegheny County in Pittsburgh and New Yorkers for Children in New York City.
Each of these programs will expand the reach to foster youth aging out of care (ages 18-22). The ultimate goal is to provide YVLifeSet to all of the approximately 23,000 young people across the U.S. who age out of foster care annually by 2026.
Youth Villages also has added many operator contracts across its footprint, allowing for expansion of services. These include:
A clinical trial across Tennessee focused on MST and MST-EA (Multisystemic Therapy and MST Emerging Adults). The program is designed to help young adults 18-22 who are exiting the juvenile justice system or who have been incarcerated for high-level crimes. The goal of the program is to improve outcomes in reduction of recidivism post-discharge and success for these young adults beyond incarceration/juvenile justice involvement.
Other contracts include a new program in Mississippi called In-CIRCLE; more contracts in the Atlanta Metro area for YVIntercept (intensive in-home counseling) program; collaboration with the Oregon Health Authority and New Avenues for Youth in Oregon for expanded services for kids in foster care, as well as expanded YVIntercept contracts; a contract in New Hampshire with Anthem’s commercial insurance plan; and expanded contracts for YVIntercept in Oklahoma.
In addition, there are several building projects/renovations happening both in Memphis and other locations. Youth Villages broke ground on Bill’s Place here earlier in the year and it has a targeted opening of 2019. Janie’s House on the Inner Harbour campus in Douglasville, Georgia, will be the first house funded through Steven Tyler’s foundation, Janie’s Fund. He is slated to attend the Dec. 6 ribbon-cutting.
A new building is being planned on the Bartlett Campus to house the therapeutic drumming program and Food with Class, a culinary arts program for the kids served on through the residential campuses and group homes.
Also in the works: renovation of the Shelby Oaks office building and a main building at the Germaine-Lawrence Campus in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Noting that Youth Villages now is in 13 states and has 74 locations and is serving more kids and young adults than ever before, CEO Pat Lawler said he was excited about the potential immediately in front of the organization.
“We have never had this much opportunity for growth in our history,” Lawler said.