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Marty D'Urso

YAP's Evidence Base

Research Funded by OJJDP "Best Practice In Mentoring" Grant

In late 2011 the University of Texas/San Antonio (UTSA), in collaboration with YAP, received one of five “Best Practice in Mentoring” research grant awards from the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Data collection from four YAP sites (in Camden NJ, Las Vegas, Lebanon PA, and Toledo OH) was completed in 2015. Exhaustive data analysis resulted in a 139 page technical report being completed by UTSA’s Michael Karcher, Ph.D., in late 2016. OJJDP accepted the study a few months later and published its own summary in September 2017. Using a recurrent institutional design model, Dr. Karcher found that participation in YAP was related to significant reductions in self-reported youth misconduct as well as significant improvements in educational engagement and employment pursuit. Dr. Karcher also found that these benefits were most apparent when playful activities, rather than problem oriented discussions, dominated in the second half of the mentoring relationship. Wraparound expert Dr. John VanDenBerg hailed the quasi-experimental YAP study as “amazing” and a “huge benefit to the field.”

YAP's Work with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

In mid-2011 YAP began collaborating with Jeffrey Butts, Ph.D., an expert in positive youth development and the Director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Work with Dr. Butts and his staff helped YAP to fine-tune its theory of change and logic model, and produce a series of “issue Briefs” in 2014 that addressed various aspects of YAP services and programs. Subsequently, Dr. Butts and John Jay were awarded a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that is enabling them to study YAP programs in Baltimore MD, Orlando FL, and Fort Worth TX. These efforts are being undertaken to improve YAP’s current services and with the hopes of undertaking a randomized control trial in the near future.

YAP's Work with Advanced Metrics and the University of Maryland

YAP employs the CANS (Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths) assessment tool in our juvenile justice, child welfare, and truancy programs in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The CANS assessment tool evaluates how clients are progressing in a number of life domains, strengths, emotional needs and risk behaviors. YAP has engaged Steve Herr, Ph.D., to analyze our CANS data. Dr. Herr is affiliated Applied Metrics and formerly with the University of Maryland. It is anticipated that the CANS data will allow Dr. Herr and U. of Md. to produce and hopefully publish the results of their research and thus provide further evidence of the effectiveness of the YAP wraparound advocacy model.  

YAP's Work with the Chicago Crime Lab

Chicago Crime Lab researchers are conducting a comparison group study of YAP youth in Chicago that is funded by a grant from the “Get In Chicago” Foundation and will focus on the degree that positive community linkages can contribute to positive youth development and reduced recidivism.

YAP's Work with the Center for Outcome Analysis

James Conroy, PhD, and Robin Ferris of the Center for Outcome Analysis (“COA”) conducted a pilot study of 128 young people who received services from YAP related to their autism spectrum disorder diagnoses. COA used a survey instrument to measure Quality of Life (QOL) responses from young YAP consumers and their families. The youth were predominantly male (85%) and Caucasian (80%) with an average age of nine years old. Family responders consisted primarily of parents (78% were mothers, 7% were fathers, and 5% were mothers and fathers responding together).

The researchers found that both youth and families believed they were much better off after becoming involved with YAP. The measurements of these positive changes were statistically significant and greatest in connection with issues related to whether YAP provided support and needed services for the young people as well as to whether YAP helped to improve their school situations and feelings of hopefulness.

The researchers noted that similar studies done on different programs showed much lower perceived increases in QOL and satisfaction. Thus, the researchers stated, “We can be very confident in the conclusion that the families believe that their lives, as well as the lives of their children, are significantly better now than they were before getting involved with YAP.”

Copies of the YAP-COA study may be ordered here.

Past Studies

Twelve external evaluations conducted by respected organizations have led YAP to consistently being considered a Best Practice Model.

Youth involved in YAP programs compared with other youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have:

  • higher program completion rates;
  • lower rates of placement into residential foster care;
  • lower re-arrest rates
  • low numbers of young people who are AWOL; and
  • greater residential stability

Additionally, findings using other measures of success revealed that young person’s served in YAP programs:

  • achieved reductions in risks and needs;
  • improvements in quality of life;
  • positive results in education;
  • enhanced links with community activities;
  • improvements in social behavior.

Finally, findings revealed that YAP served a high-risk and high service need population. For example, juveniles tracked in the Philadelphia study reported high service needs, low self-esteem, low levels of school and family bonding in comparison to similar programs that were evaluated. In addition, youth in the YAP’s Tampa program were more likely to have had a history of outpatient mental health treatment, a history of running away, a history of family violence and a history of substance abuse in their biological families than comparable programs. Youth in the Tampa program were also less likely to have received school based mental health services or alcohol or substance abuse treatment prior to intake. Finally, in YAP Pennsylvania programs for youth with disabilities over 37% of the youth studied have autism.

Compendium of Studies

Center for Outcome Analysis (2006). Who Are the Young People Involved in the Youth Advocate Program in Pennsylvania and How Are They Doing? Report on First Visits. 

Comiskey, C.M., (2006). A Slow Start and Sudden Stop Along a Positive Journey: An Evaluation of the Youth Advocacy Program in the Northern Area Health Board. 12 April 2006.

Devlon M., Connolly N., McGarry K., McMahon B. (2014). Longitudinal Evaluation of Youth Advocate Programmes (YAP) Ireland, Dublin: YAP Ireland.

Jameson, E., & Cleary, J. (2004). “Angels from Heaven”: An Evaluation of the first year of the Youth Advocacy Programme in the Eastern Region. Commissioned by the Child Care Policy Unit, Department of Health and Children, Eastern Regional Health Authority, Republic of Ireland. 

Jones, P.R., Harris, P.W. & Bachovchin, M.W. (1997). Report on The Philadelphia Youth Advocate Program. Philadelphia, PA. Crime and Justice Research Institute.  

O’Brien, M. (2004). Youth Advocate Programme: First Draft of Final Evaluation Report. Child and Family Research and Policy Unit. University of Galway, Republic of Ireland. 

Rea, R. B., Prior, J. F. X. & Davis, P.A. (2003). Final Evaluation Report: Harris County Youth Advocate Program. Presented to the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department. Rea & Associates.

Tampa/Hillsborough Integrated Network for Kids (THINK) (2003). Evaluation of the Hillsborough County Youth Advocate Program.

Travis County Juvenile Probation Department (2001). Evaluation of Austin/Travis County Advocacy Program (ATCAP). April 23, 2001.

Travis County Juvenile Probation Department (2003). Program Evaluation FY 2002: A Study of Juvenile Offender Programs. June 17, 2003.

Tarrant County Juvenile Probation Department (2002). Program Evaluation of Tarrant County YAP-2000-2002.