“[Youth Villages] faces children’s problems head on, without flinching.”
How far do you have to go to save a child? Not just any child, but one who has been abandoned, neglected, abused, traumatized, damaged—one who is acting out aggressively, running away, turning to drugs, or turning violent. What do you do when there are more than three and a half million children with stories like this in America’s child protective and justice systems? Our society has tried nearly everything, but it’s never enough. Attempts to help these children often begin an endless cycle of them shuffling in and out of institutions and foster homes.
Our children deserve better. To give them a better chance to succeed, we need to find another way. One built on decades of intensive research and demonstrated success—one that actually works. This is exactly the approach developed by Youth Villages, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that works with troubled children society has deemed beyond hope.
Youth Villages’ solution-focused approach is called Evidentiary Family Restoration or EFR. It’s built on five simple tenets, comprising real data and demonstrated success with children and families living together successfully even years after treatment. The first tenet and central focus is family. No matter what obstacles children might inherently face, they have incredibly higher chances of overcoming them with a supportive family structure. Whether it’s the child’s original family, a relative, or an adoptive parent, the evidence proves that a stable functioning family is a child’s best chance of achieving long-term success.
How do we know this? Because the second tenet of EFR dictates that results must be measurable. It’s critical to the EFR approach to follow through with children and document their outcomes at 6, 12, and 24 months after they complete their program. By caring enough to measure what happens after treatment, we’re able to significantly improve programs and outcomes for children and families in the future.
Real success means children are able to live in their communities. That’s why the third tenet of EFR is to help children either remain in, or return to their homes, whenever it is safely possible. In EFR, out of home placements, including foster care, are rare. They are short-term and actively inclusive of the child’s family. Children can make progress in treatment centers or group homes, but to sustain this progress, they must return to a safe and permanent family. And they must be bolstered by strong community supports and resources that will help the child and family succeed.
This requires an intensive level of contact, with counselors available to children and family 24/7. To be effective, treatment must offer a higher level, an extraordinary level of attentive, committed care. This can be accomplished only by using a comprehensive mix of proven services and treatments, very low caseload ratios, intense training, and rigorous clinical oversight of an empowered, accountable front line staff. In fact, this commitment to accountability is the core of EFR’s success.
The fifth tenet tells us that data-driven and outcomes-focused child services are a moral obligation—to the children served and to the public and private funders who make treatment possible. We owe it to these children and families. We owe it to the taxpayers and private donors who fund these programs. This accountability requires that any public or private resources expended deliver measurable impact and successful outcomes. And the numbers prove it, dramatically.
Evidentiary Family Restoration is the result of facing children’s problems head on, without flinching. The answers aren’t revolutionary techniques and shouldn’t be surprising. It requires relentless effort and dedicated measures to stop the revolving door of the system and help a healthy child make it to the other side. Just one look at areas where Evidentiary Family Restoration is at work, shows the kind of results once believed impossible. These results prove dramatically that doing whatever it takes is the only thing that works.