Youth Villages helps families at risk

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Youth Villages helps families at risk
Patrick Subaru recently donated 360 coats to Youth Villages locations in Marlborough and Springfield. (Photo Courtesy of Patrick Subaru)

MARLBOROUGH – A new winter coat.

For most families, it’s a nice way to stay warm.

For families facing financial and emotional distress, it’s a tangible reminder that somebody cares.

Recently, Patrick Subaru donated 360 coats to Youth Villages, a nonprofit organization that helps children at risk stay with their families instead of being placed in foster homes, detention centers or other facilities.

Half of these coats went to the Youth Villages offices in Marlborough; most of these have been distributed.

Julia Scarpellino, regional manager for Youth Villages, spoke about a mother whose daughter received a coat.

“A weight lifted off her shoulders,” she said.

That’s because the mother faced a hard decision – buying a new winter coat for her child or paying bills.

There were also three sisters who have issues with physical aggression. Each sister received a new coat, and there was peace.

“We celebrate the small wins,” she said.

Scarpellino has been working at Youth Villages for eight years; she works out of Marlborough, which serves most of Massachusetts, from Springfield to Boston.

Clients are sent to Youth Villages based on what Scarpellino called “referral behaviors,” such as self-harm, truancy or attempted suicide. They come on referrals mostly from state agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Children and Families and (sometimes) Department of Youth Services.

According to Scarpellino, most of the organization’s funding comes from these agencies.

Main programs

The organization’s two main programs are Intercept, for children 0-18; and LifeSet, for young adults age 17 to 22.

Intercept offers intensive in-home services, including therapy; it focuses on the full family unit with a goal toward stabilization and unification of the family.

LifeSet is an independent living program that helps young adults transition from foster care. They receive assistance with employment, housing and more. LifeSet specialists maintain regular contact with their young clients as they build healthy relationships, obtain safe housing, find employment and more.

There’s also the emergency diversion program, which was “born out of COVID” in 2021, according to Lauren Guess, senior regional communications manager for Youth Villages.

“The kids were being sent to hospitals, but not getting treatment,” she said.

Under this program, children receive services at home, instead of waiting for treatment in hospitals or other facilities.

“Kids are best treated at home,” she said.

Like other programs, Youth Villages has seen a rising demand in services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were never out of the field,” said Scapellino. “We have a ‘face first’ approach that sets us apart.”

In addition, she said the organization does a “really good job of getting specialists.”

“We rarely say no to a referral,” she said.

Special programs

Youth Villages stages several programs through the year to help client families with essentials.

Its Backpack Heroes program provides back-to-school items for clients, while Holiday Heroes helps provide gifts.

In addition, Youth Villages also distributes hygiene bags and birthday bags.

On Thursday, May 2, Youth Villages will present its annual fundraising gala, “Red Kite Nite,” at the Fairmount Copley in Boston. Last year, the gala raised $1 million for the LifeSet program.

For more information about Youth Villages, visit https://youthvillages.org/about-us/locations/massachusetts/.

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