May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and here at Multiplying Good we want to spotlight some of our past recipients who are helping to create supportive and safe spaces for those struggling with their mental health. Today, we honor Patrick Lawler of Memphis, Tennessee who founded Youth Villages — a foster care program that changed the understanding of best practices for foster care children and their families.  

Around 80 percent of children in foster care have significant mental health issues, compared to approximately 18-22 percent of the general population, and experience post-traumatic stress disorder at a rate nearly 5 times higher than the general adult population. When Patrick Lawler initially founded Youth Villages, the families foster children were taken out of were considered the problem, but as Lawler followed up on children who had been in the program, he soon learned that the progress they made at Youth Villages was often lost soon after leaving the program. 

This made Lawler put resources towards investigating and collecting data to better understand what was happening. This research was groundbreaking, and by 1994 there was significant evidence showing that foster care youth have the best chance of success if raised by their own families in a setting where the families could get consistent support and help. 

Today, Youth Villages has over 100 locations in 23 states, over 3,200 staff, and more than 20 full-time researchers who examine the best practices and data from their research. Youth Villages has served almost 70,000 children since the mid-1990’s, with 87% living at home successfully. Youth Villages also provides their LifeSet program, aimed at young adults aged 18-24 who need extra support transitioning to adulthood after being in the foster care system.  

Thank you, Patrick, for the effort, empathy, and energy you and your team put into caring for the mental health and well-being of those in the Youth Villages programs.