Best-selling Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh Joins Youth Villages National Board of Directors

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Best-selling Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh, who drew attention to the hardships of youth aging out of foster care through “The Language of Flowers,” has joined the Youth Villages national board of directors.

Best-selling Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh, who drew attention to the hardships of youth aging out of foster care through “The Language of Flowers,” has joined the Youth Villages national board of directors.

Diffenbaugh’s interest in supporting Youth Villages’ work, particularly the organization’s YVLifeSet program, was piqued by her passion for helping foster youth. Her debut novel, which spent 69 weeks on The New York Times best-sellers list and has been translated into more than 40 languages, is about a girl growing up in and aging out of foster care.

Teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities, Diffenbaugh and her husband, PK, a teacher by training, became intimately familiar with the needs of children growing up in foster care or with families who cannot adequately care for them. The couple eventually became foster and adoptive parents of Tre’von, now 23. Earlier this summer, the Diffenbaughs legally adopted Donovan, 25, whom they met as he was aging out of foster care. They are also the parents of Graciela, 9, and Miles, 7.

Following her literary success, Diffenbaugh co-founded Camellia Network, a nonprofit crowdfunding and social support platform to help former foster children that recently merged with Youth Villages and has been relaunched as the LifeSet Network, LifeSetNetwork.org. The site’s mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care to donors who will provide the critical resources, opportunities and support they need to thrive in adulthood.

The author’s second novel, “We Never Asked for Wings,” about motherhood and the challenges faced by immigrant families, is scheduled for release this month. Diffenbaugh is a member of the Random House Speakers Bureau and has spoken about her life, her novel and the needs of foster and former foster youth at universities, literary festivals, state departments and nonprofit organizations around the country. She has been a guest lecturer at both the Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program and the Harvard Kennedy School.

Youth Villages launched YVLifeSet in 1999 to help children aging out of state care or juvenile justice placements make a successful transition into independent adulthood. The organization provides YVLifeSet in seven states and has helped more than 8,000 youth by providing guidance and support to help them achieve their independent living goals, including completing their high school education, going on to higher education, finding a job, finding stable housing, reconnecting with family when appropriate, learning to budget and more.

The program has been the subject of the largest-ever rigorous, random-assignment evaluation of a program for this population. Results of the study, conducted by MDRC and Dr. Mark Courtney of the University of Chicago, show it to be one of the first and only to demonstrate multiple positive benefits for youth.

Across every range of services — housing, employment, education, health —YVLifeSet participants received more help than young people who were not in the program. Young people in the YVLifeSet group showed an increase in earnings, a decrease in homelessness, a decrease in economic hardship, better mental health and a dramatic reduction in living in violent relationships.

Founded in 1986, Youth Villages is a leading national nonprofit dedicated to providing the most effective local solutions to help children with emotional and behavioral problems and their families live successfully. Youth Villages helps more than 23,000 children and families each year from more than 20 states through its Evidentiary Family Restoration™ approach. Youth Villages’ wide array of programs, including intensive in-home services, residential treatment, foster care and adoption, transitional living services, mentoring and crisis services, centers on the five strategies of EFR: family, measurement, community, intensity and accountability. Youth Villages has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and was recognized by the White House as a model for data-driven social innovation. For more information, visit http://www.youthvillages.org.

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Connie Mills
Youth Villages
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