Janie's House

Youth Villages – Inner Harbor Campus is a national non-profit that is unlike any other of its kind. The campus goes above and beyond in terms of offering resources that are needed for children who have been traumatized by various types of abuse. While the facility has been at the same location since the 1960s, it has had several names and went through multiple transformations. In 1986, it became Youth Villages and in 2009 merged with Inner Harbor Hospital to create the campus as you see it today.

Size Matters

Youth Villages – Inner Harbor campus is nestled in the woods just outside of Douglasville, Georgia. As a national non-profit, it is the largest residential psychiatric treatment center for children in Georgia. The campus covers close to 1200 acres and includes everything imaginable in terms of education, treatment options, and residential living. The property includes a lake, a horse barn and pasture, a community garden, large playground, laundromat, auditorium, drumming yurt, hiking areas, as well as an auditorium, gymnasium, and other educational facilities.

The size of the Youth Villages’ facility allows the kids who are sent there to have the experience of a lifetime. The entire property is dedicated to some type of learning experience. From equine therapies to classroom learning, the facility offers experiential therapies designed to not only instruct the student academically but to also teach them about themselves. They learn to trust themselves and are given an opportunity to explore their world without fear or anxiety.

The Lake at Youth Villages
The Lake at Youth Villages

The Mission of Youth Villages

Youth Villages is designed to offer many different treatment options to children who been exposed to extreme levels of abuse and trauma, be it emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual. One of the main goals is to help children and their families live successful lives while dealing with the after-effects of abuse and significant childhood trauma. Some children deal with extreme behavioral challenges that make it difficult for them to function efficiently. The children are given the tools they need to face those challenges and at that same time rebuild themselves emotionally and psychologically.

The Youth Villages campus is all-encompassing. As a SACS accredited school, they are able to offer an above average educational program, as well as full-scale treatment options. Youth Villages is a residential facility where students live in small courtyards that house 10 to 12 students. Groups are based on both gender and age, allowing the students to establish family-type relationships with others in their group. The groups have almost a “tribe-like” bond. They travel together and attend group activities together, with the older kids providing peer support for the younger ones.

Youth Villages Garden
Youth Villages Garden

Each Child is Unique

One of the most beneficial aspects of Youth Villages and its all-encompassing environment is that the children receive round the clock care in a stable and secure environment. They are given the tools they need to take on new challenges and embrace new adventures. They are allowed to grow and move forward at their own level, giving them the chance to rebuild their self-esteem and learn to trust their own instincts.

When it comes to learning and treatment options, Kimmy Yon said, “Each student is assigned to their own therapist. We offer individual therapy, family therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, equine therapy, and residential therapy.” She went on to add, “Students do things from a therapeutic perspective to be able to accomplish a goal or task. Adventure-based therapy offers sessions that last six to eight weeks and allows them to gain hands-on experience. The result is that they learn to trust themselves and others.”

The Benefits of Brain Mapping

Youth Villages has its very own Neuro-Psychiatric Lab where technicians can create an individual brain map for each child. Yon said, “ Kids have the opportunity to have a brain map, or QEEG” to see what’s happening in their brain.” As the student continues to go through therapy and the various learning experiences, the children can look at their individual brain maps, allowing them to see the changes that are occurring.

The ability to see what is going on inside their own brain is a positive form of reinforcement. They don’t have to rely on what they are being told. They can see the changes for themselves which gives them the motivation to continue to work towards a better life. For the children of Youth Villages, life can be full of uncertainties. That is why brain mapping is so important. It gives them tangible proof, something they can hold on to, that shows they are making improvements in the right direction.

Youth Villages and Steven Tyler Come Together

After the release of Janie’s Got a Gun in 1989, Steven Tyler’s fans quickly began to come forward telling him of their experiences and how the song had affected them. Until that time, sexual abuse was not spoken of and if it was, many people turned their backs. It’s an uncomfortable topic and people don’t normally like to go outside of their comfort zone. Tyler’s song forced the public to become more aware, bringing to light the fact that sexual abuse causes extensive damage both physically and emotionally. Over time, he began to look for ways he could help the children who found themselves in these situations.

Kimmy Yon’s understanding of how Janie’s House came about is that ‘Steven Tyler was looking for an organization to partner with so he could have more of a charitable presence and to be able to support specifically that population of young girls who really require a tremendous amount of support in terms of healing from abuse, neglect, and potential sexual exploitation. He really wanted to partner with an organization that was doing that type of work.’

When Tyler established Janie’s Fund, he did so under the Youth Villages organization so that he could begin to help the girls immediately. Starting a charitable fund can take several years. By partnering with Youth Villages, Tyler’s donations could be used within a matter of months and applied where they were needed to establish and fund new therapeutic and educational programs right on the Youth Villages campus. Janie’s Fund is also one of the primary funding sources for Janie’s House. Tyler continues to raise money for Janie’s Fund and also pays visits to the Youth Villages-Inner Harbor campus when his schedule allows it. Tom Harris, who teaches drumming classes at the yurt on campus said, “When he (Steven Tyler) is here, he is totally into what the kids are doing and his excitement shows.”

What’s Next?

Children stay at Youth Villages for three to six months, sometimes longer. The campus coordinators and staff continue to be dedicated to providing the children who visit Youth Villages with the best treatment and educational experiences possible. If you are interested in learning more, contact the Youth Villages-Inner Harbor campus. They can be found at their website, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also make donations to Janie’s House through Janie’s Fund at https://janiesfund.org.

The next installment of this series will be on Janie’s Fund and how Steven Tyler is working with Youth Villages to make sure these kids get everything they need.

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