Albany, NY -- Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. New York and national leaders this week attended workshops at the New York Public Welfare Association (NYPWA)’s 150th Anniversary Winter Conference. The conference was an opportunity for the team to learn from specialists in trauma, racial disparity, use of data, collaboration and other areas that impact YAP’s work. YAP was also among the exhibitors, raising awareness of YAP’s ongoing juvenile justice and child welfare work in several New York counties and readiness to expand its culturally competent programs to serve more young people, including families impacted by the opioid crisis, LGBTQ-related issues, trauma and the state’s Raise the Age law.
YAP, a nonprofit with a 44-year track record of successfully serving as an alternative to youth prison and out-of-home placements, serves nearly 19,000 youth and families in 100 communities in 23 states and the District of Columbia. The team attending the conference included New York Regional Directors Casey Lane and Adam Santacroce, St. Lawrence County Program Director Dana LaCoss and Chief of Public Policy Shaena Fazal.
YAP’s unique strength-based model is the prototype for New York state’s Advocate, Intervene, Mentor (AIM) program. An evaluation released by New York City’s Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity), found the AIM program reduced justice-involved young people’s risk for recidivism, re-offending and out-of-home placement. Launched in 2013 by the New York City Department of Probation, AIM was implemented as part of the Young Men’s Initiative. AIM was court-mandated for justice-involved young people from all five Burroughs, ages 13-18 considered at high-risk for reoffending. In addition to its model being the program archetype, YAP was one of several nonprofits that implemented AIM during the evaluation period. YAP managed AIM in the Bronx, which represented 36 percent of the program participants evaluated.
The evaluation, conducted by the Urban Institute, found that more than 90 percent of AIM participants avoided felony re-arrest within a year of enrollment, far exceeding the 60 percent target. Excluding truancy and other non-criminal probation violations, more than two-thirds of youth studied avoided out-of-home placement. Fewer than 10 percent of AIM participants received a juvenile felony adjudication and only 3 percent were convicted of a felony in criminal court within a year of completing their AIM program. The AIM evaluation included 229 participants in the program between September 2016 and March 2017. Of those evaluated, 77 percent were male; 81 percent were African-American, and 16 percent were Hispanic.
“At the core of YAP’s trauma-informed model is cultural competency, as racial equity is a key component to our approach,” Fazal said. “The AIM evaluation is more evidence pointing to the effectiveness of YAP by demonstrating that it’s possible to keep youth from re-offending by serving them safely at home, in their communities.”
YAP hires advocates who live in the neighborhoods they serve who provide youth with intensive one-to-one mentoring. At the same time, YAP family advocates work closely with parents/guardians to design individualized toolkits that include connections to resources needed to help youth and their families succeed. At the center of the YAP model is helping people identify and tap into their gifts and talents to empower themselves to succeed in life and give back to others.