UMFS, a Virginia human services nonprofit agency, recently had one of those ah-ha moments that literally changes everything. Since its inception as an orphanage in the early 1900s, UMFS has been dedicated to serving high-risk children and families in Virginia. However, after reviewing relevant data, the organization’s leadership had an epiphany: their UMFS programs were “built to support Virginia systems, not our kids.”
That’s a bold statement to make considering their history and their good service. All along, they’ve been doing important work and making a real difference in the lives of children and families. But after many decades and dollars, they are concerned about their social impact. They report that Virginia ranks worst in the nation for youth who age out of the foster care system without being adopted. And the statistics get more bleak from there: of children who age out, 42% drop out of high school, 25% will be in the justice system within two years, and 20% are homeless after the age of 18.
In outstanding candor, UMFS has:
· Acknowledged that their past work has not been nearly as effective as it could be. The framework for their services was built around what the government and other funding sources committed to, and not on what was going to make the biggest difference. Although there was nothing wrong with their work, it just wasn’t making enough of a difference.
· Revisited their mission. The organization’s leaders asked, “Are we meeting our social impact?” And when they looked deeper, they realized they were not. Data shows that what high-risk children need most is a permanent connection and tools for success to be resilient.
· Realigned the delivery of their services in a way that matters. UMFS is now focused on funds and programs that nurture life-long connections and support for children.
After much study and feedback from within their organization and community experts, UMFS is now building teams of “unwavering champions” for Virginia’s high-risk children and families. As it has done throughout its history, UMFS is leading the charge in facing the truth of what needs to happen next, and is unafraid to challenge itself and others to do better.
To learn more or support UMFS, visit www.umfs.org.