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Bring our Children Home Act

In the early 90's New Jersey had the dubious distinction of sending more kids to out of state residential placements than nearly every state in the nation.  Not only were the kids affected by being removed away from family members, but the resources for kids and families in need were exported with the kids to other states. To reverse that trend, YAP, under leadership of our CEO, Jeff Fleischer, in collaboration with grassroots advocacy groups and other service providers, led community meetings to devise strategies to bring children back home to NJ. 

The result was groundbreaking legislation called the Bring Our Children Home Act.  YAP co-authored the legislation and helped to implement the Act. This brought more than 1400 youth back home to their families from out of state residential facilities. YAP not only provided direct wraparound and advocacy services to many of the returning youth but also provided statewide training and technical assistance to support the effort. As a result New Jersey went from being the number two state in the country for placing children out of state to one of the lowest.

Autism Self-Advocates: The Power of Personal Experience

The Centers for Disease Control now estimates that 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. YAP recognizes the importance of learning from what individuals on the spectrum, "self-advocates," have to teach us.  YAP contracts with self-advocates to co-train staff and community members in face-to-face Autism trainings along with our Training Department. As a result of this integrated training, community members gain a valuable understanding of what life is like on the autism spectrum from an "inside out" perspective-—from those actually experiencing autism. 

Self advocates share their life stories, what they've found helpful (and not so helpful) when working with direct care staff, and their unique insights.  Because the autism label covers such a wide spectrum of learning styles and capacities, self-advocates introduce us to some very individualized means of support for that spectrum, and help us to understand how their experiences and relationships have helped to shape and improve their lives. By including their perspectives in these trainings, self-advocates influence how policies and practices that affect them and others on the spectrum are made and implemented.

Helping Support and Influence Federal Administrative and Legislative Efforts to Help Gang-Involved and Disconnected Youth

Over the last several years, YAP staff have advocated for gang-involved youth and youth at risk of detention on the national level in myriad forums.

Some examples include providing oral and written testimony to Attorney General Eric Holder's Commission on Childhood Exposure to Violence, and Moderating a Congressional Briefing sponsored by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman Dale Kildee (D – MI-5) on how to help disconnected youth aged 16-24 get reconnected to school and work and avoid negative outcomes, like institutionalization. 

We've also worked with Congressman Bobby Scott to provide information about community-based programs that work effectively with gang-involved youth in support of the Youth PROMISE Act.  Congressman Scott also invited YAP to participate on a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference about how YAP has successfully worked with gang-involved youth in the community.

Support for Families Living in Poverty: The View from Our Frontline Workers

New York Times reporter Paul Tough spent a year shadowing YAP Director Steven Gates as he worked with gang-involved youth on the South Side of Chicago. The youth Steve worked with were exposed to severe and chronic episodes of violence and living in extreme poverty. The result of Tough's exposure to Steve and the kids he works with was a front page article on the NY Times Magazine using YAP's intervention to frame the realities of extreme poverty in America, its effect on children and interventions that effectively combat some of those effects.  

Tough also included his experiences with Steve and the YAP interventions he observed in his New York Times Bestselling Book, How Children Succeed. The exposure of the article and the year Steve Gates spent with Paul Tough led to Steve participating in a panel discussion on UP with Chris Hayes, a talk show on MSNBC. Steve used his expertise as a street worker specializing in helping kids living in extreme poverty to shed light on a national discussion about poverty. An effective advocate, Steve demonstrated that people living in extreme poverty act reasonably for their circumstances and successfully challenged criticism that material possessions, such as microwaves, somehow made poor people "less poor."

Youth VOICE in D.C.

In 2010, some YAP alumni were selected to present at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice Conference in Washington DC.  During their visit to DC, the young people each participated in a Hill visit training offered by CJJ and scheduled meetings with their representatives in Congress.  The young people shared their personal experiences with members and staff about what affects them in their local communities, how their lives had been affected by being system-involved youth and what Congress can do to help, and also gave their input on national issues of importance to them.