In the late 1800s when Charles Crittenton was traveling across the Pacific coast, he instructed James R. Johnston, the superintendent of the New York mission, to engage the people of Philadelphia in the creation of a mission in that city. In 1892, Florence Crittenton Mission No. 7 was opened in Philadelphia. After many years of work under the name Florence Crittenton Service of Philadelphia, the organization merged with Youth Service, Inc. in 1981.

Youth Service, Inc. is dedicated to strengthening the family unit, helping at-risk teens, and promoting child safety. Their mission is to offer accessible, quality services to at-risk children and families. YSI accomplishes this mission by providing comprehensive services that strengthen families, foster self-sufficiency, and develop the health and well-being of children and the family unit. Services offered include Youth Emergency Services, a Crisis Nursery, and family based services with parenting education.

Youth Emergency Service (YES) offers safe and supportive housing, and respite care to youth who are facing housing insecurity or are unable to safely live with their family at the time. The YES program includes 24/7 emergency respite services, on-site medical care, counseling supports, educational support, and connections to a range of community resources to support individual needs. YES services are offered through Youth Service’s Basic Center Program and Safe Shelters across Philadelphia.

The Crisis Nursery program provides emergency short-term care for preschool-aged children at risk of being harmed or neglected by parents and other caregivers in a child’s life. The Crisis Nursery aims to provide support to adult caregivers while they are fulfilling responsibilities concerning their own well-being and that of their children. This includes managing family emergencies, court appointments, housing issues, or searching for work. Services in the program include 24/7 emergency care for children and connections to community resources and YSI parenting classes.

Family-based services at YSI include the Crittenton Family Support Center, a Truancy Prevention program, and an Enhancing Parenting program. The Crittenton Family Support Center also consists of the Sunnycrest Family Support Center to offer home-based services to families on a voluntary basis. Through the Center YSI provides Family Empowerment Services where case managers collaborate with families on ways to develop skills as a caregiver, connect to community resources, and reach their family goals.

The Truancy Prevention program works with students that have multiple unexcused absences from school and engage families in the process to prevent a referral to Truancy Court. The youth and family work with case managers who make home and school visits to identify the factors that may lead to truancy and problem-solve through them.

Gwen Bailey has been Executive Director of Youth Service, Inc. (YSI) since 2004. Youth Service, Inc. is a multi-faceted, non-profit child welfare agency providing support services to children, youth and families. Always seeking to be responsive to the community’s needs, YSI has brought several programs to the city, such as the crisis nursery model, the first teen shelter in Philadelphia and a group program for pregnant and parenting teens focused on empowerment and goal setting. YSI is also a partner in a collaboration focused on helping older youth facing housing insecurity, many of whom have exited the foster care system, find stable housing and connected needed supports.

Gwen, a licensed social worker, is a graduate of Hampton University and holds a masters in social work from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently president of the board of Pennsylvania Council of Children Youth and Family Services and a board member of Deep Roots Charter School. She previously served as member and chair of the board of Girls Justice League. Gwen was a recipient of the Harvard Business School Club of Philadelphia’s scholarship to attend the Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management at Harvard Business School. In 2017 Gwen was selected as one of the Distinguished Advocates for Children by the Support Center for Child Advocates.

*This post is a re-blog from National Crittenton’s website to celebrate 135 Years of Crittenton. Read more of the inspiring stories from their 135 Years 135 Stories campaign on their website.