YAP's NYC program, located in the South Bronx, received the 2014 Data Driven Provider Award from the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity for our work with the Advocate, Intervene, Mentor (AIM) Program administered by the NYC Department of Probation. For more information, click here.
The South Bronx of New York City is the poorest Congressional District in our country: 38% of the total population lives under the poverty line; worse yet, 49% of the children in the district live under the poverty line. Because YAP’s mission is to work in the communities that need help the most, we are in the Mott Haven community of the South Bronx working with youth and their families. In other words, YAP works with the most marginalized and shunned youth in the poorest area of the nation.
YAP’s mission in Mott Haven is to work with youth who have already penetrated the juvenile justice system and are targeted for prison. The New York City Department of Probation funds YAP to support the youth and connect them to community resources so that they never go to prison using our YAP-Wrap model and Supported Work.
Each of the young people referred to YAP receives intensive family and neighborhood based support. Youth participate in developing their individualized service plans, and are assigned an Advocate and a supported work placement. They are also connected with one of several grass roots community groups, organized by YAP’s subcontracting partner Community Connections for Youth (CCFY), such as a community garden, faith-based groups, parent groups, print shops, and others. Youth become members of these neighborhood associations and remain involved after YAP’s official service ends, ensuring that youth continue to get the support they need. These connections are a very effective way to integrate youth into the normalized and vibrant, positive community life in the South Bronx.
The CCFY model was recently evaluated by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice and the program was found to have very successful outcomes compared to a comparison group of other youth arrested in the South Bronx who were not receiving CCFY services. One of the key findings was that kids voluntarily stay connected to the program even after formal services end, which is a testament to the importance of authentic and effective youth engagement.
Another example of authentic youth engagement, strength-based planning and voice and choice can be shared in the example of how a YAP Advocate worked with Dmitri*, a very challenging young person who had stopped going to school. Dmitri spent most of his free time on the streets, and often got himself into trouble through making bad decisions. Dmitri’s Advocate learned that he loved the exhileration of being on a roller coaster, had a talent for fixing things, and an interest in meeting young women. Putting together this young person's needs, strengths and interests, he encouraged the youth to get a driver's license. Getting a license meant that he would have to read and study for the exam, show competency in driving, and would eventually lead to getting a car that would likely need fixing, but would be a great way to meet and impress girls. The result was a renewed interest in education, feeling better about himself, getting some wheels, and yes, a girlfriend!
The Advocates are all from the same Zip Code where the kids live, and some have their own experiences in the juvenile justice system and with incarceration in the adult system. One Advocate who worked with a severely acting out youth who no one else could work with, said: "I remembered when I was going through the same thing during a really tough period of my life; I remembered that I felt like no one understood me, and no one cared enough to take the time to try. So that's what I did with this young person. I listened and cared and broke thru to let him know I wanted to understand. We worked well to create and achieve his goals from there. He graduated and comes back now to help as an alumni."