Youth Villages is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. Founded in 1986, YV helps more than 25,000 children and families every year through intensive in-home services, residential treatment campuses and intensive residential treatment services, foster care/adoption, transitional living services, mentoring and specialized crisis services. YV has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and identified by the White House as one of the nation's most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. YV has also been cited as a model by the American Youth Policy Forum, the National Coalition of Juvenile Justice and United Way.
The Youth Villages-Inner Harbour Campus is one of the state’s largest psychiatric residential treatment programs, located on 1,200-acres in Douglasville, GA, approximately twenty miles west of Atlanta. Youth Villages offers residential treatment and accredited educational services for approximately 300-400 youth ages 5 to 21 each year at this campus. The Inner Harbour student body is a difficult to reach population, with the majority of youth in the foster care or juvenile justice system, in addition to a program serving the children of military families. Referred by state agencies, mental health professionals, and advocacy offices, youth present with emotional/behavioral disorders, abuse and trauma histories, substance abuse issues, suicidal ideations/attempts, and failed attempts with other programs. Many children have multiple problems, including developmental and learning disabilities and co-occurring medical conditions.
The Youth Villages AmeriCorps program began in 2000 and has been recognized by Innovations in Civic Participation as one of the 52 most innovative AmeriCorps programs in the country. The program has also been selected as the Volunteer Team of the Year by two major Atlanta nonprofits, a Global Youth Service Day Lead Agency by Youth Service America, a Featured Finalist in Innovation and Leadership from America's Service Commissions, a Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) Service Impact Award finalist and as "Outstanding Mentors" by the Atlanta Community Tool Bank. The program also received the coveted Harkin Excellence in AmeriCorps Programming and Service from CNCS, and most recently was recognized by the Atlanta City Council and selected for a Green Difference Award by Project Green Schools. Corps members provide tutoring, life skills, service learning, afterschool and summer programming and other enrichment and leadership opportunities to students, in addition to weekly service projects with local nonprofits and organizations and disaster responses as needed in the state of Georgia.
Youth Villages is committed to outcome-based approaches, which includes follow-up at six, twelve and twenty-four months following discharge. This follow-up assesses placement information, in addition to school, employment and legal status. Outcome measures, including placement outside the home, contact with the juvenile justice system, school attendance and success, and family function are tracked on a regular basis and utilized in improving service delivery.
In regards to outcome measurements for students at the Inner Harbour Campus, 82% of youth discharged from the campus to a less restrictive environment. At 24 months post-discharge, 80% of youth were living successfully, which is defined as either with family or independently and 82% reported no trouble with the law. In regards to school status, 94% were in school, had graduated from high school or were enrolled in GED classes and 78% had avoided out-of-home placements at a residential treatment center, psychiatric hospital or detention/corrections at six months post-discharge.
Outcome evaluation for the program shows that AmeriCorps members make a real difference in the lives of Youth Villages students. During the last service year, 87% of students meeting tutoring criteria showed an increase in academic performance by a quarter of a grade level and 96% achieved improved life skills in one or more deficit areas. Over 92% of youth who participated in service learning activities showed an increase in civic engagement and nearly 88% were committed to volunteering in the community upon discharge.
Youth Villages AmeriCorps service members also:
* Dedicated over 40,000 hours to tutoring, life skills, afterschool/summer programming, service learning, classroom assistance and community-strengthening activities.
* Leveraged over 1,100 volunteers for 3,650 hours of service, including youth in care, corporate/civic groups, and individuals to meet both campus and community needs, and provided community-strengthening activities to numerous local nonprofits and organizations.
* Provided outdoor kitchen sessions focused on healthy living and nutrition in conjunction with our community garden. The program has also assisted over 60 youth in achieving vocational certifications to support future culinary employment.
* Offered afterschool programming focusing on the arts, outdoor activities, skill-building, fitness and academics. Members also facilitated numerous campus-wide events including a Career Fair, Fall Festival, holiday party, MLK Event, and talent show.