Youth Advocate Programs Marks a Summer of Change in Youth Justice & Child Welfare Systems
YAP Sponsors 2019 Janet Reno Forum 
Some 200 researchers, policymakers, advocates and youth services practitioners convened at The McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University for the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) 2019 Janet Reno forum. Sponsored by Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., the forum sought to answer the question: what exactly does the ideal juvenile justice system look like and how do we get there? 

“As we consider the question before us — how to realize a youth justice system centered around youth, families, communities and racial equity and not youth prisons — we have to make sure our response is one that doesn’t harm kids or engage in family separation, even for young people who commit serious and violent offenses,” said YAP Chief of Public Policy Shaena Fazal. 

Fazal outlined how the 44-year-old YAP model of hiring neighborhood-based Advocates who provide intensive mentoring and holistic family support serves as an alternative to out-of-home placement. She highlighted the nonprofit’s work as part of Chicago’s Choose to Change (C2C) program, where the YAP model is combined with Children’s Home and Aid’s trauma-informed cognitive behavioral therapy. Preliminary results from a randomized controlled trial undertaken by the University of Chicago Crime and Education Labs suggest that participation in C2C leads to a dramatic decrease in arrests. “Our model works because it uses the power of human connection, authentic love and unconditional caring to address the effects of trauma. Positive relationships are an antidote to trauma.”

YAP and Children’s Home and Aid Partered to Keep Chicago Youth Safe this Summer
YAP joined Chicago’s Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Children’s Home and Aid to launch Summer for Change (S4C). The groundbreaking summer program served more than 400 youth identified by zip code and other factors as being most likely to be impacted by gun violence. The six-week program provided individualized mentoring, group-based trauma-informed therapy, educational opportunities, enrichment activities and more.

The program was delivered by YAP and Children’s Home and Aid, which also partner for Chicago’s Choose to Change program, which informed S4C.

“The safety and well-being of youth is always our top priority, and CPS and the City of Chicago are fully committed to expanding opportunities for our students and keeping them safe and engaged in meaningful activities,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson in a news release announcing S4C.

The program launch received EXTENSIVE NEWS COVERAGE.
New Jersey YAP worked with Youth to Create 64 Days: A Summer of Peace
More than one thousand New Jersey young people and their families partnered with YAP this summer for a campaign called, “Sixty-four days: A summer of Peace.”

 “While some communities in the state have seen an overall reduction in gun crime, kids served by YAP are at a greater risk of being directly impacted and traumatized by violence of all kinds, domestic, bullying and exposure to incidents involving guns; and often, summertime is when violence peaks,” said YAP Regional Vice President, Lynette Connor.

The 2019 YAP “Summer of Peace” evolved from past YAP campaigns where staff members led discussions with youth guided by 64 daily mantras, meditations and affirmations, as adapted from those designed by Association for Global New Thought. This year, Summer of Peace had new energy as YAP Advocates worked directly and individually with the youth they serve, empowering them to make their commitment to the campaign more personal and sustainable.

“Because of their personal experiences and losses, youth involved in our programs have been extremely outspoken about their pain and desire to make a difference,” Connor said. “Sadly, our kids have to fight for peace. We are encouraged that with support from their YAP Advocates, they will see the possibility of their power this summer.”

From July 1, YAP program-enrolled youth have been involved in discussions about peace and participating in fun events, like a waterpark outing and a street soccer match. 

One of the campaign’s events was CAPTURED BY NJNTV.
St. Lawrence County (NY) YAP Celebrates 20 Years of Keeping Families Together
This summer St. Lawrence County YAP staff gathered with families in their community to celebrate 20 years of service. People served by YAP in the community over the years, referral agencies, local employers and friends were brought to tears as they heard one another’s personal stories. celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary at an open house of its new office. 

Since 1999, YAP has partnered with juvenile justice, child welfare, behavioral health, education, re-entry, courts, substance-abuse treatment programs and other St. Lawrence County systems to give individuals and families a safe community-based alternative to youth detention, institutional placement and away-from-home care. YAP delivers services by hiring neighborhood-based Advocates who are trained to empower young people to identify their strengths and design individualized blueprints for their lives while connecting them their families to resources and tools that reinforce their foundation.

The Watertown Daily Times captured the event in a MOVING NEWS STORY and later AN EDITORIAL.
YAPWORX DD Pilot Gives Adams County (PA) Residents with Disabilities Career Skills and Contacts 
This summer, 20 young people with developmental disabilities met Gettysburg, PA BB&T manager Cindy Zeigler and other area employers; toured Gettysburg Cargill where they networked with workers; and learned that they have skills needed in the workforce.

The young people are participants in YAPWORX DD a unique job readiness program launched in June that runs through the end of September. YAPWORX DD is a pilot program offered by Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. and Adult Services with generous support from the Warehime Foundation.

“The program is showing participants that employers value diversity and that they have marketable talents and skills,” said Adams County Youth Advocate Programs Director, Robert A. Witt. “YAPWORX DD is providing each program participant with his or her own personalized work readiness toolkit and exposing them to opportunities that match their abilities. The bonus has been that we’re also giving area employers access to some incredible prospective employees,” he added.

YAPWORX DD provides specialized job counseling and self-advocacy training that will help participants in their job search and once they land a position. YAPWORX DD facilitators are YAP Advocates who empower participants by helping them identify and realize their individual gifts and interests. The young adults have been learning about jobs that match their passions and meeting prospective employers and “opportunity advisors,” like BB&T’s Zeigler – generous individuals who have careers in fields they may wish to enter with whom they can network throughout their careers.  

YAP will collect outcomes data at various intervals following the conclusion of the program and will apply learnings as the program is further developed for following years.
Roanoke, Va. YAP Family Support Toolkit Includes Scholarship for Mom 
When Michelle Labrecque connected with YAP two years ago, her plate was more than full.

“[My son] has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, oppositional defiance disorder as well as specific learning disabilities in math and written expression. [My daughter] has been diagnosed with disruptive mood dysregulation disorder and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.”

Michelle had tried intensive in-home therapy from multiple providers, with no improvement and at times, “devastating consequences,” she said. “At the recommendation of one in-home therapist with a previous provider who saw no other alternative, [my daughter] went into residential treatment at age seven.” 

Michelle shared her story in an essay she wrote as part of an application for the Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) Tom Jeffers Endowment Continuing Education Scholarship. YAP partners with child welfare, youth justice and other systems to provide community-based alternatives to out-of-home placement to keep kids with their families. The nonprofit’s late founder established the $1,000 scholarship as one of many tools available to YAP Advocates who help individuals and families manage their challenges, identify their strengths and achieve their goals.

Since she began working with the family’s YAP team more than a year ago, life for Michelle’s family has changed in ways she never imagined. Her daughter is at home with intensive therapy that includes calming strategies for when she escalates. YAP also provides her eleven-year-old son with services in the home to meet his needs. Working with her YAP team, Michelle was also able to identify her own strengths and needs and connect with tools and resources that she needs to grow as a mom and an individual.

“From the strength, compassion, and encouragement from everyone I have met through YAP, I have been able to fix my financial aid, apply to Virginia Western Community College, and register and enroll in classes for the Fall 2019 semester. From working with YAP and seeing such an inspiring group of individuals, I have decided to go to school for a bachelor’s in human services,” she wrote.

Just in time for the start of the fall semester, Michelle got news from YAP that she is one of its 2019 scholarship winners. It’s one more tool that will set her on her path. At the same time, her YAP team will continue to provide the entire family the support and resources they need individually and as a unit.

“I want to work for YAP so I can help other families the way that YAP has helped ours,” she said.
YAP in the News
A number of YAP programs made headlines this summer. The news stories covered a range of YAP’s community-based youth justice, violence prevention, child welfare, and family services.
Chicago twins Tia and Tamara Jordan tell a story of triumph
North Texans Care: Youth Advocate Programs
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittverse — a magazine that gives a platform to writers who are sometimes marginalized
WFXR-TV Roanoke, Va.: Dozens celebrate, learn about black hair in Roanoke
NBC Sports Chicago – Beyond the Game: The Chicago Sports Alliance