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Promising Program Seal

Youth Villages YVLifeSet

Blueprints Program Rating: Promising

A community-based program that assists young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice involvement in making a successful transition to adulthood by providing intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling.

  • Timothy Goldsmith, Ph.D.
  • Chief Clinical Officer
  • Youth Villages
  • 3320 Brother Blvd.
  • Memphis, TN 38133
  • USA
  • 901-251-5000
  • youthvillages.org
  • Employment
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Mental Health - Other

    Program Type

    • Academic Services
    • Alcohol Prevention and Treatment
    • Cognitive-Behavioral Training
    • Community, Other Approaches
    • Counseling and Social Work
    • Drug Prevention/Treatment
    • Employment - Vocational
    • Foster Care and Family Prevention
    • Leadership and Youth Development
    • Skills Training

    Program Setting

    • Community (e.g., religious, recreation)
    • Social Services
    • Transitional Between Contexts

    Continuum of Intervention

    • Selective Prevention (Elevated Risk)

    A community-based program that assists young people with histories of foster care or juvenile justice involvement in making a successful transition to adulthood by providing intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling.

      Population Demographics

      The program serves youth ages 18 to 24 who are aging out of foster care or juvenile justice custody and need help transitioning to adulthood.

      Age

      • Late Adolescence (15-18) - High School
      • Early Adulthood (19-22)

      Gender

      • Male and Female

      Race/Ethnicity

      • All Race/Ethnicity

      Race/Ethnicity/Gender Details

      The analyses did not examine differences in program effectiveness by gender or race.

      Problem solving skills, life skills, trauma.

      • Individual
      • Peer
      • School
      • Family
      Risk Factors
      • Individual: Favorable attitudes towards drug use, Gang involvement, Substance use, Youth employment*
      • Peer: Interaction with antisocial peers, Romantic partner violence*
      • School: Low school commitment and attachment, Poor academic performance, Repeated a grade
      Protective Factors
      • Individual: Academic self-efficacy, Coping Skills, Problem solving skills, Prosocial behavior, Prosocial involvement, Refusal skills, Skills for social interaction
      • Peer: Interaction with prosocial peers
      • Family: Attachment to parents

      *Risk/Protective Factor was significantly impacted by the program.

      See also: Youth Villages YVLifeSet Logic Model (PDF)

      YVLifeSet, formerly known as Transitional Living, which is operated by the social services organization Youth Villages, is an independent living program for youth in need (e.g., transitioning from foster care or juvenile justice custody). The program lasts 9 months for most youth who successfully complete the program and involves intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling. At entrance, each person receives an assessment and individualized treatment plan. The bulk of the services are then provided during hour-long, weekly sessions with a case manager, who typically serves only eight youth at a time.

      Youth Villages is a non-profit social service organization based in Memphis, Tennessee, but operating community-based programs, such as YVLifeSet, in multiple states. YVLifeSet provides community-based case management, support, and counseling to young adults who were formerly in foster care or juvenile justice custody or otherwise opportunity youth transitioning into adulthood. After an individualized assessment, most services are then provided during hour-long, weekly sessions with a case manager, who typically serves only eight youth at a time.

      The specific curriculum focuses on preparing adolescents for young adulthood with life-skills training on topics like money management, securing safe and appropriate housing, educational enrollment, and job-seeking skills. In addition, the program uses evidence-based and/or research-informed practices for behavioral treatment for alcohol and other substance abuse. The counseling involves talk about particular issues in the participant’s life from both the past and present. Youth take part in action-oriented activities, such as opening a bank account or gathering information about classes at a community college.

      Other resources for participating youth include trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, a 12- to 20-week course of therapy provided by specially trained Youth Villages staff; referral to community services, such as General Educational Development classes or housing services; access to some flexible funds for expenses such as purchasing appropriate clothing for interviews or an apartment application fee; skill development; cultivation of social support, both formal and informal; and work for youth seeking postsecondary education, vocational training, or employment opportunities.

      The program incorporates cognitive-behavioral theory in working with youth.

      • Cognitive Behavioral

      The study recruited youth from ages 18 to 24 who had been in foster care or juvenile justice custody (both part of the Department of Child Services) in the state of Tennessee. The 1,322 young people enrolled in the evaluation were randomized to a treatment group or a control group receiving a list of social service resources available in the community. Posttest data came from a survey and administrative data on college enrollment, both obtained 12-14 months after random assignment. A total of 1,114 of the 1,322 sample youth completed the survey.

      A count shows significant program effects for 5 of 16 tests for primary outcomes and 7 of 41 tests for secondary outcomes. The significant primary outcomes included earnings, housing instability, economic hardship, mental health, and intimate partner violence. Among the outcomes not significantly improved by the program were education, social support, physical health, medical care, substance use, alcohol use, condom use, and criminal involvement.

        Relative to a control group, the program increased:
      • Earnings
      • Housing stability
      • Economic well-being
      • Mental health
      • Reduced intimate partner violence

      Not tested.

      Effect sizes were very small. For significant primary outcomes, they ranged from .12 to .16.

      The sample was large but came from one state (Tennessee) and included only youth who were interested in the program and able to live independently with appropriate supports; evaluators speculated that youth served by the program were somewhat higher functioning than the population of youth in foster care or juvenile justice custody.

      • Model estimation details not provided; evaluators indicate only that results are regression-adjusted, controlling for pre-random assignment characteristics
      • A few baseline differences, although likely due to chance
      • Some evidence of differential attrition

      An earlier report provided a detailed description of the Transitional Living program model and assessed its implementation. See Michelle Manno, Erin Jacobs, Julianna Alson, and Melanie Skemer, Moving Into Adulthood: Implementation Findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living Evaluation (New York: MDRC, 2014).

      • Blueprints: Promising

      Valentine, E. J., Skemer, M., & Courtney, M. E. (2015). Becoming adults: One-year impact findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living evaluation. MDRC. http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/Becoming_Adults_FR.pdf

      Katja Russell
      3320 Brother Blvd.
      Memphis, TN 38133
      (901) 251-4811
      Katja.Russell@youthvillages.org

      Study 1

      Valentine, E. J., Skemer, M., & Courtney, M. E. (2015). Becoming adults: One-year impact findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living evaluation. MDRC. http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/Becoming_Adults_FR.pdf

      Valentine, E. J., Skemer, M., & Courtney, M. E. (2015). Becoming adults: One-year impact findings from the Youth Villages Transitional Living evaluation. MDRC. http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/Becoming_Adults_FR.pdf

      Evaluation Methodology

      Design:

      Recruitment: The study recruited youth ages 18 to 24 years of age who had been in foster care or juvenile justice custody (both part of the Department of Child Services) in the state of Tennessee for at least 365 days (not necessarily continuously) after age 14 or for at least one day after age 17. Additionally, youth needed to be interested in program services, appropriate for the program (that is, no histories of severe violence, mental health problems, drug use, or developmental delays), and able to live independently with appropriate supports. Between October 2010 and October 2012, 1,322 young people enrolled in the evaluation, which represented about 25% of those evaluated for eligibility. As the authors note (p. 14), “It is likely that the study sample included a somewhat higher-functioning group, with stronger social connections, than is representative of the general population of foster care or juvenile justice youth.”

      Assignment: Sixty percent of the sample members were assigned at random to the program group (N = 788) and 40 percent were assigned at random to the control group (N = 534). The control group received a list of social service resources available in the community.

      Assessment and Attrition: Pretest data were collected on sociodemographic background, including information on arrest history, receipt of mental health counseling or alcohol and drug use treatment, and state custody history. Posttest data came from a survey and from administrative data on college enrollment, both obtained 12-14 months after random assignment. The survey was completed by 1,114 of the 1,322 sample members (83.6% of the program group, and 85.2% of the control group).

      Sample: The sample ranged in age from 18-24 years but about 90% were 18 or 19 years old. There were slightly more males than females (52% versus 48%). The sample was racially diverse, with a majority being white/non-Hispanic (51%), and a significant minority being black/non-Hispanic (37%).

      Sample members struggled with employment and education. Only 19% held jobs at baseline. Only 29% had earned a high school diploma or GED certificate, and only 14% were enrolled in postsecondary schooling. Moreover, 43% had repeated a grade, 81% had been suspended, and over 25% had been in special education at some point.

      About 25% of the sample had no contact at all with their mothers, 66% reported having more than one foster placement, 61% reported having been in custody because they had been neglected, abused, or adjudicated as unruly, and 52% reported having been in custody for delinquency. Sixty-four percent had ever been arrested — more than double the rate found among the general population.

      Measures: All measures except college enrollment came from subject self-reports in the posttest survey.

      Education. Three primary education outcomes included high school diploma receipt, GED certificate receipt, and vocational training participation. Secondary measures of enrollment in college, a 4-year college, and a 2-year college came from administrative records.

      Earnings and Employment. Earnings from formal work in the 12 months before the posttest survey as reported by the subject served as the primary measure and summarized time employed, average hours, and average wages. Secondary measures included ever employed, ever employed full time, and ever employed part time.

      Housing Instability. The primary outcome equaled the number of four indicators of housing instability that a youth experienced in the year before the posttest survey, including homelessness, couch surfing, the inability to pay rent, and loss of housing because of the inability to pay rent. Secondary outcomes consisted of the four separate components of the scale.

      Economic Hardship. The economic hardship scale equaled the number of five indicators experienced in the year before the survey, including not having necessary clothing or shoes, inability to pay a utility bill, having one’s gas or electricity shut off because of an inability to pay the bill, having one’s phone service shut off because of an inability to pay the bill, and delaying paying a bill in order to buy food. Secondary outcomes included the five component measures plus measures of savings, debt, and receipt of five types of public assistance.

      Social Support. The first primary outcome equaled the mean number of people whom a youth could ask for various types of help, based on responses to seven questions (e.g., “How many different people can you go to when you need someone to listen to your problems when you’re feeling low?”). The second primary outcome indicated whether or not a young person reported feeling very close to at least one familial or non-familial adult. Secondary outcomes included 6 measures relating to closeness to a non-family member, family closeness, and family members and friends who would offer a place to stay.

      Health. The sole primary outcome was a mental health problems scale (21-question Depression Anxiety Stress Scale). This scale is composed of three individual subscales that measure the severity of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Secondary measures included self-rated physical health, access to medical and dental care, and health care coverage.

      Safety. The five primary outcomes included measures of binge drinking, illegal drug use, condom use, victimization, and partner violence.

      Criminal Involvement. The first primary measure, the criminal behavior scale, combined participation in different crimes into one main crime indicator. The second primary outcome, contact with the criminal justice system, measured spending a night in jail or prison during the year before the survey. Secondary outcomes measured having an arrest, a conviction, or involvement in five specific crimes.

      Analysis:

      The study did not provide details on model estimation. Notes below the tables say only that the results are regression-adjusted, controlling for pre-random assignment characteristics. A footnote on page 52 adds that for education outcomes, the impact estimates were adjusted for baseline measures, including whether individuals had already earned a high school diploma or GED certificate.

      Intent-to-Treat: The study dropped only those subjects who, at posttest, could not be located, missed appointments or calls for the survey, refused to participate, were deceased, or were not interviewed for other reasons.

      Outcomes

      Implementation Fidelity: The overall rate of program participation was high. About two-thirds of intervention subjects participated in YVLifeSet services for at least 5 months, and about half were still participating 9 months after random assignment. In total, program group members averaged about 26 YVLifeSet sessions during the 12 months after random assignment.

      In comparison to the control group, which was eligible for a variety of services outside the program, the intervention group was more likely to have received help across multiple service areas.

      Baseline Equivalence: Table 1.1 presents tests for 15 baseline sociodemographic measures, with one significantly different (p < .05). The intervention group had more contact with other relatives (90.2%) than the control group (85.8%). Additional tests for four baseline measures of custody history in Table 1.2 showed one significant difference. The intervention group entered custody at younger ages (25.5% versus 19.8% at ages 11-14).

      Differential Attrition: Attrition rates did not differ significantly between the intervention and control groups. Appendix Table A.1. shows that survey respondents were significantly more likely than non-respondents to be female, have had regular contact with biological mothers (p < .10) and with other relatives at baseline, have attended substance abuse treatment in the year before the study, and have exited state custody for the final time at an earlier age. However, the differences were generally small.

      Appendix Table A.2 tests for baseline equivalence among the analysis sample (excluding dropouts). Two significant differences emerged (p < .05): frequency of contact with biological mothers and age at first entry into state custody. These differences were similar to those for the randomized sample. Further, tests using administrative data for the full randomized sample and the completer subsample did not differ (p. 115).

      Posttest: A count shows significant program effects for 5 of 16 tests for primary outcomes and 7 of 41 tests for secondary outcomes.

      Education. None of the three primary or three secondary education measures was significantly improved by the intervention relative to the control group.

      Earnings and Employment. The intervention significantly increased earnings (after 10 outliers were dropped), with an effect size of .12. It had marginal effects (p < .10) on the secondary outcome measures of ever employed and ever employed part time but not on ever employed full time.

      Housing Instability. The intervention group experienced significantly less housing instability than did the control group (d = -.16). Two of the four secondary components were significant – homelessness (d = ‑.14) and couch surfing (d = -.17).

      Economic Hardship. The intervention group experienced significantly fewer forms of economic hardship than did the control group (d = -.13). For the secondary outcomes, 3 of 12 reached statistical significance: did not have necessary clothing or shoes, delayed paying a bill to buy food, and received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

      Social Support. None of the primary or secondary outcome measures of social support was significantly improved by the intervention.

      Health. The intervention group reported fewer mental health problems than the control group (d = ‑0.13). Only 1 of 6 secondary outcomes was significant – did not receive medical care when needed.

      Safety. Intervention subjects reported improved primary outcomes in 1 of 5 tests for safety: They were significantly less likely to be involved in a violent intimate relationship.

      Criminal Involvement. The intervention group did not significantly differ from the control group on the criminal behavior scale or contact with the criminal justice system. For secondary outcomes, 1 of 7 tests was significant, with the intervention group having lower reported receipt of cash or goods for sex (2.2% versus 4.3%), but the authors noted that this small difference was likely due to chance.

      Subgroup Analysis. The authors state (p. 97), “The results provide almost no evidence of variation in impacts across different subgroups of youth defined by history of juvenile justice custody, by geographic setting, by receipt of EFC Services at baseline, or by latent class assignment.”

      Long-Term: Not examined.