On any given day, 8,000 Oregon children are living in foster care. For a variety of reasons and through no fault of their own, they are removed from their homes. Families could be going through a crisis, parents may be unable to care for them, or they are living in precarious or dangerous circumstances. The foster care system strives to ensure the safety of every child in its care. In many cases, the system is unable to provide everything a child needs to truly thrive. Youth Villages Oregon addresses this problem through its commitment to radically improve outcomes for America’s most vulnerable children and families. Youth Villages is a nonprofit organization that supports young people who face a wide range of emotional, mental and behavioral problems. In Oregon, Youth Villages is headquartered in Clackamas County and has satellite offices in Deschutes and Marion Counties.
We hope that every young person has a bright future in front of them. The sad fact is that the 300 youth aging out of the Oregon foster care system each year is a highly vulnerable population. The path ahead can be daunting, if not outright destructive. These young adults face higher rates of incarceration, homelessness, psychiatric and social disorders, unemployment, and lower educational attainment than non-foster youth. Without a support system and lacking other options, the odds are against them and their potential is at risk of being lost. It is incumbent upon our community to prepare our foster youth to find their way in the world by supporting them in their journey.
Leading a growing national movement, Youth Villages believes that families are best at raising their children. Anchored in this belief, Youth Villages has developed a continuum of evidence-based and evidence-informed programs, many of which direct families toward preservation and reunification. They are designed to prevent vulnerable youth from entering state systems, support those within them, and prepare and empower those who are aging out for successful adulthoods. Here in Oregon, Youth Villages has supported more than 4,000 local youth and their families.
In November, OnPoint donated to the expansion of Youth Villages’ Enhanced Independent Living Program: LifeSet. LifeSet was designed to help change the life trajectory for youth aging out of foster care. The program’s goal is to help these young adults become productive citizens who achieve lasting success and contribute to their communities. Accomplishing this goal starts with helping these youth pursue education, find employment, and attain stable housing. LifeSet Specialists meet these young adults where they are, once a week at minimum, and are available 24/7 for crisis support. Specialists work tirelessly to help them overcome their challenges, identify their own goals, and get on a path toward stability and success. LifeSet provides a way forward for those facing the most significant barriers to a successful launch into adulthood. Youth Villages programs have been tested, measured, and adapted to have the highest impact. They are committed to evidence-based approaches and regularly measure outcomes to ensure they see results.
The trajectory of a young person moving toward adulthood can be influenced in many ways. Though there are no guarantees, children who experience safe, stable, and nurturing environments are often better equipped to make this transition successfully. The LifeSet program gives foster youth the support they need to achieve their true potential. As they enter adulthood, these youth are better prepared to build satisfying and productive lives that benefit our entire community. To learn more about Youth Villages Oregon, visit its website, and if you would like to support its mission, you can donate here.
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