LifeSet FAQs

Below are answers to some our of most commonly asked questions about LifeSet.

Q: What is Youth Villages’ LifeSet program?
A: Youth Villages’ LifeSet program provides at-risk youth and young adults leaving the foster care, juvenile justice and mental health systems the intensive in-home support and guidance they need to make a successful transition to adulthood. Program success is defined as young adults maintaining stable and suitable housing, remaining free from legal involvement, participating in an educational/vocational program and developing the life skills necessary to become a successful, productive citizen. The LifeSet program works not only with young adults who are “aging out” of state custody but also with the young person’s family and support systems to help ensure a more successful transition. Youth Villages’ outcome data show that the program significantly reduces the risk of homelessness, poverty and intimate partner violence among the young adults served.
Q: Why did Youth Villages create the LifeSet program?
A: To meet a need with a particularly vulnerable group of youth. A growing body of research across the country shows that young adults face many obstacles when they turn 18 and “age out” of the foster care system. They often lack support from family, have few financial resources and are dealing with significant and debilitating mental health issues — factors that leave them unprepared to meet the demands of independent living. They face higher rates of homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and unemployment when compared with young people who have not been involved with the child services system. And more former foster youth fail to achieve a high-school degree or higher education when compared with their peers. It has been estimated that at least 1 in 4 foster children will exit foster care unsuccessfully by running away, being incarcerated or entering a psychiatric hospital. Due to their lack of support and resources, many former foster children return on their own to live with a family member, often the very ones they were originally removed from, possibly due to abuse or neglect. For this reason in particular, young adults aging out of state custody need programs that will help them address family/support system issues, as well as teaching them independent living skills so they have the tools to build stable, successful adult lives. Youth Villages measures the success of its programs by following up with young people and families for up to two years after they complete their program. The need for intensive support services for former foster youth was apparent in this data, as well as in data available from other studies conducted by researchers across the country. In 1999, Youth Villages responded to the need for services for former foster youth by creating the LifeSet program with help from a private donor, The Day Foundation. The program was entirely privately funded until 2007, when the state of Tennessee began making funds for this crucial and successful program available to help this most vulnerable population.
Q: When and where did Youth Villages’ LifeSet program originate?
A: The program began in 1999 in West Tennessee.
Q: Where does Youth Villages provide the LifeSet program?

A: The program serves over 1,295 young adults each day across the state of Tennessee. Youth Villages also provides LifeSet services to young adults in Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon and North Carolina. We are expanding LifeSet through direct service in states and through partnerships with innovative agencies and high-performing nonprofit organizations across the country. In select locations, we train and support providers who offer LifeSet to young people in their communities. The network of providers enables Youth Villages to share best practices and collectively advocate for federal funding to support these young people. For more information about becoming a partner, email

Q: How many young adults have been served by Youth Villages’ LifeSet program?
A: Youth Villages has served more than 11,000 young adults in the program since 1999.
Q: What is the age range of young adults who can be referred to the LifeSet program?
A: The typical age range of young adults in the LifeSet program is 17-22. In some cases, Youth Villages continues to serve young adults past the age of 21 if they need further services. Because funds typically are not available for young adults older than 21, Youth Villages uses private donations to continue services in those circumstances.
Q: What makes Youth Villages’ LifeSet program unique and different from other independent living or transition programs?
A: The intensity and comprehensiveness of Youth Villages’ LifeSet services set this program apart from other services. While there are some programs that serve young adults who have aged out of foster care, these programs are typically office-based and do not provide intensive in-home support and guidance in the community like Youth Villages’ program does. In Youth Villages’ program, LifeSet specialists are available to the young adults 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They make a minimum of one face-to-face contact per week with the youth at the youth’s home, job or wherever is most convenient for the young person. The number of sessions can be increased based on the individual needs of each young adult. Structured clinical program model and consultation. Services focus not only on the individual young person but also on all the areas that may affect young adults, such as their community, peer group, family and school/work. Youth Villages’ LifeSet specialists help young people find and maintain employment, find affordable and safe housing, continue their education by applying for scholarships and pursuing state funding when available, access health care and organize a support network, among other things based on each young person’s individual circumstances and needs. Youth Villages’ LifeSet program collaborates with other programs/agencies to provide an intense network of services to the young adults in the program. Another unique aspect of the LifeSet program is that the family (or other support system) is considered a vital part of the young adult’s path to success. When possible, Youth Villages helps young people reconcile with viable family members.
Q: What makes a young adult ineligible for the LifeSet program?
A: Young adults who are actively suicidal, presenting with homicidal behaviors or psychotic without medication stabilization at time of referral are not appropriate for Youth Villages’ LifeSet program. Additionally, young adults who exhibit the following behaviors may not be appropriate for admission into the program: History of extensive gang involvement that resulted in violent behavior; History of severely injuring someone with a gun or other weapon; History of violent criminal behavior (i.e. rape, armed robbery, etc.); Current access to weapons that cannot be monitored; Youth not committed to consistently meeting with LifeSet specialist; and/or Significant impairment in youth’s ability to meeting independent living goals as a result of chronic mental health issues (frequent hospitalizations), acute substance abuse or intellectual disability.
Q: How many young adults does a LifeSet specialist have on his or her caseload?

A: LifeSet specialists maintain caseloads of eight to 10 young adults depending on the intensity of the cases.

Q: How often does the assigned LifeSet specialist see the young adults?
A: LifeSet specialists are available to the young adults 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They make a minimum of one face-to-face contact per week with the youth at the youth’s home, job or wherever is most convenient. The number of sessions can be increased based upon the individual needs of each young adult.
Q: What is the relationship between LifeSet and the referral source?
A: LifeSet specialists work closely with all individuals and agencies involved with the young adult, including the referral source. The LifeSet specialist often communicates and collaborates weekly or monthly — as appropriate or needed — with the referral source, court system, the employer and others closely involved in the case.
Q: How long is the average length of treatment in the LifeSet program?
A: Program participation usually lasts from six to 12 months, with an average of seven to nine months.
Q: What are the typical components of a LifeSet specialist’s treatment strategy?

A: Self-sufficiency skills, community reintegration, education, vocational skills and job training/experience are the major focus areas. The proposed program will provide the young adult with the knowledge and skills necessary to:

  • Maintain safe and stable housing
  • Achieve or maintain work and/or education
  • Remain free from legal involvement
  • Become self-sufficient
  • Build and maintain healthy relationships
Q: How common is it for young adults in the LifeSet program to have children of their own?

A: Youth Villages serves approximately 1,300 young adults per day in the LifeSet program. About 20 percent of those young adults have children or are pregnant. LifeSet specialists provide parenting education, assist the young parent in arranging for child care, and help the young adult with any other barriers related to being a healthy and productive parent. In addition, all young adults in the program can receive pregnancy prevention education.

Q: Does Youth Villages provide young adults in the LifeSet program with basic needs such as rent, utilities, transportation, food, etc.?
A: Youth Villages does not provide the young adults with a place to live or with funds to pay for their livings costs. Instead, Youth Villages helps the young people make their own arrangements for independent living, with the goal of teaching young adults the skills they need to live successful, independent lives. In the majority of cases, LifeSet specialists assist the young adults in finding a place to stay with a friend or family member when they are unable to make living arrangements for themselves due to lack of funds. However, in approximately 10 percent of cases, young adults simply have no family member or friend to support them. In these cases, Youth Villages assists them with housing costs, provided they are taking the necessary steps to work toward absorbing those costs on their own by a certain date. In rare cases, Youth Villages assists with utility bills, food and other basic-needs purchases.
Q: How are the specialists in the LifeSet program organized, trained and supervised?
A: A vital component of the LifeSet program is the level of training and supervision for LifeSet specialists. A clinical supervisor supervises a team of four to five specialists who carry caseloads of eight to 10 young adults. A highly structured specialist training-and-development process includes an initial three-day clinical training, quarterly clinical booster trainings, weekly clinical consultation, weekly individual supervision and development, and field supervision.
Q: Does LifeSet staff collaborate with other agencies that may be involved with the young adults?
A: Yes. In addition to providing individual and family sessions, LifeSet staff work closely with other agencies, as well as any existing programs and services of benefit to the young adult to help ensure that the young adults served are linked with all appropriate community resources. At the beginning of every case, LifeSet specialists seek input from the young adult’s referral source, extended family members and friends, teachers, employers, peer group, neighbors and others involved with the young adult and family, such as probation officers and mental health workers. LifeSet specialists “check in” with these key people in the community weekly and at least monthly throughout treatment. All outside contacts are made with the young adult’s consent and only after release forms have been signed.
Q: What are the hours of operation for the LifeSet program?
A: LifeSet specialists work flexible schedules to meet the needs of each young adult and to be available in cases of emergency. LifeSet specialists are available to the young adult 24 hours a day, seven days a week. LifeSet staff work in teams and rotate on-call shifts over the weekends and on holidays to help ensure that young adults can always get in touch with a LifeSet specialist.
Q: Does the LifeSet program provide crisis intervention services?
A: Yes. Crisis intervention and prevention services are available to young people and their families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the preventive stages, the clinical team (LifeSet specialist, supervisor, consultant and regional supervisor) track “red-flag” behavior, identifying potential problem areas and designing interventions to help prevent a possible crisis. In case of a crisis, young adults may contact specialists at any time, and either their specialist or an equally trained team colleague responds to the young adult. Crisis resolution may include responding by phone and/or in person regardless of the hour or day of the week. LifeSet specialists are trained in de-escalation techniques to help resolve crises. Specific steps are in place to address safety needs, including designing and implementing safety plans on an immediate basis, formulating short-term strategies to prevent recurrence of the crisis incident, and conducting ongoing safety assessments. LifeSet specialists alert the clinical supervisor as soon as possible for support and guidance. LifeSet specialists notify regional supervisors or clinical consultants immediately if further support and guidance are needed.
Q: What are the qualifications of staff in the LifeSet program?
A: Qualifications for LifeSet positions are:

  • Specialist – master’s degree in social science field preferred, bachelor’s accepted with experience. More than nine years of data from the LifeSet program show no significant difference in bachelor’s- or master’s-level staff in regard to outcomes.
  • Clinical supervisor – master’s degree in social science field preferred, bachelor’s accepted with experience. Experience in training and providing LifeSet services required.
  • Clinical consultant – master’s degree required and licensure (or working toward finalization of licensure requirements), as well as extensive experience providing LifeSet services and extensive ongoing training.
  • Regional supervisor – master’s degree in social science field preferred, bachelor’s accepted with experience. Experience in training and providing LifeSet services required.
Q: Does Youth Villages have experience starting the LifeSet program in new locations?
A: Yes. Youth Villages has successfully and quickly rolled out our intensive in-home services program and LifeSet in many new areas and states, most recently across the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Indiana. Youth Villages has its own team of specialists — each with years of experience– who provide case consultation to therapists and intensive development training to clinical supervisors. Many management-level staff have experience starting programs in new cities and states. The process of starting in a new location involves some combination of leadership working onsite and traveling between locations on a weekly basis.
Q: How long does it take Youth Villages to start the LifeSet program in a new location?
A: Generally, it takes about six months to provide full services. The first two months of starting a new program typically are spent hiring and training staff; conducting meetings with stakeholders, other providers, community services and others; and establishing the referral and admissions process. During the third and fourth months, Youth Villages completes the hiring and training processes, admits the first young people, and continues meetings with stakeholders. During the final two months of start-up, Youth Villages continues training new staff and communicating with stakeholder agency staff to help ensure smooth processes. Youth Villages begins serving young people at full capacity during months five and six.
Q: Does Youth Villages have a quality assurance plan in place for LifeSet?
A: Yes. The LifeSet program’s treatment model naturally lends itself to in-depth quality monitoring of outcomes and ongoing processes due to the program’s vigorous supervision structure and adherence measures. Youth Villages has implemented additional structure and processes to help ensure that LifeSet specialists adhere to the treatment model. High-risk cases receive extra supervision as warranted by each individual case. Critical events trigger additional attention to the problem case. Clinical oversight is provided through field supervision by the clinical supervisor, review of taped sessions (with the youth’s consent) and database-generated scorecards of the LifeSet specialists’ and supervisors’ performances. Clinical services quality is further ensured through quarterly booster trainings on specific areas, such as intervention development and family engagement, among others. Program success is monitored weekly and monthly, measuring key data to help ensure success or make crucial changes in treatment wherever needed. Youth Villages’ goal always is to provide the best services possible, and Youth Villages continuously measures outcome data to help ensure services provide the best help to young people and their families. In addition to measuring outcomes and following up with clients post-discharge, Youth Villages continually assesses and refines specialists’ clinical skills in group supervision, individual supervision, clinical consultation and regional consultation.
Q: Does Youth Villages track the outcomes of young adults/families who participate in the LifeSet program?
A: Yes. Youth Villages collects data on all young adults served by the LifeSet program. Data are collected at point of discharge and six, 12 and 24 months after discharge. Data collected show whether the young person lives in a home, is in school or working, has had any involvement with the law, and more. Youth Villages’ Research department, which is not affiliated with the LifeSet program, conducts follow-up research with the young adults and families to monitor program effectiveness. Key outcome data collected include:

  • Living arrangements at discharge and during the following 24 months to assess whether the young person is successfully living in a home or has been hospitalized, in jail, has run away or has been referred to a residential or other treatment program
  • Criminal/ legal involvement
  • Use of mental health services
  • Employment
  • Educational status
  • Social support /life skills

The LifeSet program is also participating in a national evaluation called the Youth Villages LifeSet Study. The study was initiated in 2010, and is using random assignment to evaluate the impact of the program in assisting youth making the transition into adulthood. The study is being conducted by MDRC (, with Dr. Mark Courtney as the principal investigator; funding for the study comes from several private foundations including the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. Over the course of approximately two years, 1,322 youth were randomized into the study. The evaluation will examine the difference that Youth Villages’ LifeSet program makes for youth aging out of care – its impacts on a range of outcomes, including education, employment, mental health and financial security. It is intended to provide important information for policymakers and practitioners who are interested in improving the lives of these vulnerable young people. MDRC released the report on Implementation Findings from the Evaluation earlier this year and expects to release a report on initial impact findings in spring of 2015.

Q: Does Youth Villages provide any support for youth after discharge?
A: Youth Villages’ LifeSet specialists remain available to the young adult beyond the discharge date via office phone. In cases where the young adult begins to experience struggles or new problems arise, Youth Villages assesses the situation to determine the best course of action. Examples of remedies include additional sessions without readmission, referral to an outside therapist or case manager, and in some cases, readmission to the LifeSet program.
Q: Do you have references specific to this program?

A: Yes. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services: Mrs. Bonnie Hommrich, Deputy Commissioner, 436 6th Avenue North, 7th Floor, Nashville, TN 37243. Telephone: (615) 741-9702 Email

Q: What is the cost rate for a young adult in the LifeSet program and what does that rate include?
A: It varies; a daily rate per youth receiving LifeSet services is calculated uniquely for each service area. That’s because LifeSet services include individual and family support services provided by the LifeSet specialist, as well as management of the case while in the program. Because LifeSet is a community-based program, the primary expense is personnel-related. Travel reimbursement for direct-service staff is the most significant operating expense beyond traditional overhead for office space, utilities and equipment like computers and telephones.
Q: What if funding runs out and the young adult is not ready for discharge or is no longer eligible for the program due to age?
A: Youth Villages raises funds through the private sector to make continuing services possible for young people who need these intensive services. An annual internal fund-raising campaign that allows Youth Villages’ staff to give back a percentage of their salary to the organization also helps raise significant funds for the LifeSet program, specifically for young adults who otherwise would not qualify for funding to receive services. During the last 15 years, our employees have donated more than $6 million to support this much-needed program.

For additional information or questions, please contact