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