Youth Villages, a private nonprofit dedicated to helping children with emotional, behavioral and mental health issues and their families, recently began offering help to children and families in their own homes in five counties in the Smoky Mountain Center area.

Youth Villages works in partnership with the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide Multisystemic Therapy, a family-centered therapy delivered inside the family’s own home, to children and their families in Watauga, Avery, Ashe, Wilkes and Alleghany counties. Youth Villages’ goal is to stabilize and strengthen families and prevent at-risk children from entering foster care, juvenile detention or other out-of-home placements, as well as reunify children who already have been placed outside the home with their families.

“Youth Villages is an organization that is all about family,” said George Edmonds, a regional manager who oversees Youth Villages’ operations in Boone. “At Youth Villages, we believe in the healing power of family. Our staff works hard to strengthen families and provide them with the tools and skills they need to effectively parent children with behavioral and other issues to prevent or reduce the time a child spends away from home.”

Youth Villages employs a team of five staff in the Boone area, the majority of whom are family intervention specialists working with families of troubled children in their own homes an average three times a week.

Youth Villages’ specialists are available 24/7 to the children and families they help and work around families’ schedules, meeting families before work or in the evenings, when the whole family is together.

“Our services are highly effective at helping youth live successfully in the community while strengthening the entire family, and we hope to help more and more children and families in Boone and its surrounding areas every year,” Edmonds said. “Because our service is so effective in the long-term, it is also highly cost-effective, which is an additional benefit to North Carolina taxpayers.”

Youth Villages’ data show that one year after completing the Youth Villages MST program in North Carolina, more than 85 percent of children continue to live successfully at home with their families.

Although Youth Villages’ first team of staff is already at work, the organization is still hiring for an additional staff position dedicated to helping troubled youth in and around Boone. “It’s exciting to be a part of a new region and new program, and Youth Villages offers opportunities for continuous growth,” Edmonds said.

Since 2005, Youth Villages, certified as a Critical Access Behavioral Health Agency, has helped more than 2,500 children and families in North Carolina from offices in Asheville, Boone, Charlotte, Concord, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory, Pinehurst, Raleigh-Durham and Wilmington.

Named one of the Top 50 Nonprofits to Work For by Nonprofit Times and Best Companies Group in 2010 and 2011, Youth Villages has been recognized by Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations.