Youth Villages stories

The Day Foundation announced today it will give Youth Villages a $42 million legacy challenge grant primarily to help expand the organization’s transitional living program that helps older foster children become successful adults.

It is the largest single grant ever awarded to Youth Villages and one of the largest ever to a social services organization. Philanthropist Clarence Day, who began the foundation, was a longtime Youth Villages supporter, donating more than $14 million to the organization before his death in 2009. His approach to philanthropy and support of Youth Villages was highlighted recently in the book “Give Smart: Philanthropy That Gets Results” by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman.

Because the transitional living program is funded mostly through private donations, the grant is crucial 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 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, there are thousands more in need. Each year, as many as 30,000 children will turn 18 and “age out” of state custody, being left on their own to make their way in life as an adult.

“Clarence Day cared deeply about the fate of these often-forgotten youth and he was instrumental in establishing and maintaining Youth Villages’ TL program to help them,” said the Day Foundation trustees in a statement. “He believed in Youth Villages and their mission. The Day Foundation wants to continue his legacy and carry out his wishes by helping sustain and expand the transitional living program to serve more young adults.”

The $42 million legacy challenge grant will be paid over five years, and is temporarily restricted, 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 during the next five years.

“By making a significant commitment to a highly capable organization and a program delivering measurable results, the Day Foundation’s gift is an excellent illustration of smart giving,” “Give Smart” author Tierney said of the $42 million grant.

Youth Villages’ employees who give back annually to the organization through payroll deductions for the Our Family Campaign have been one of the largest private sources of funds for the TL program. Since 1999, Youth Villages’ 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 across the country.

“Youth Villages’ TL program is a vital lifeline for our country’s most at-risk youth,” said Patrick Lawler, Youth Villages CEO. “For many young people, the years following foster care set a pattern of failure that continues for the rest of their lives. In our TL program, we help these vulnerable young people create a pattern of success that will allow them to become independent, productive adults. Clarence Day made the Youth Villages TL program possible through his tremendous support, and it’s an amazing legacy he leaves of thousands of lives improved.”

Nationally, almost half of former foster children are unemployed at age 21. Nearly a quarter of them do not have a high school diploma or GED and nearly one in five experienced homelessness since 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 in a home-like environment; 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.

“We are so grateful to the Day Foundation for helping strengthen and grow this important program,” said Mike Bruns, chairman of Youth Villages’ board of directors. “Few states fund programs for this population that is so at-risk, so private funders like Clarence Day and our many other dedicated supporters – including our own employees – make this program possible. Without it, the epidemic of our foster children failing as adults will continue at alarming rates. Instead, through the TL program, we see young people finding success. And that means a better community for all of us.”

Youth Villages is a private nonprofit organization with the mission to help emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully. One of the nation’s first providers of intensive in-home services, Youth Villages provides a wide array of services and this year will help more than 18,000 children and families in 11 states and Washington, D.C. Named one of the Top 50 Nonprofits to Work For by Nonprofit Times and Best Companies Group in 2010 and 2011, Youth Villages has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations.