Orlando, Fl – Central Florida Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. has launched a unique new Rapid Response service to keep young people from unnecessarily going into foster care. The team is on call and trained to intervene on the spot when youth released from justice and other congregate facilities come home and their families turn them away.
“In one case, a family had just learned that their child was coming in on a plane from an out-of-state facility and the parent refused to pick the kid up,” said YAP Program Director Seyny Dressler. The Rapid Response team showed up for the family, and the child was able to come home.”
YAP is a national nonprofit in 33 states and the District of Columbia that partners with child welfare, youth justice, behavioral health, public safety, and other systems to provide culturally responsive, trauma-informed, community-based individual and family wraparound services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate residential care, and neighborhood violence. The Rapid Response program is an extension of the congregate placement diversion services YAP has provided for more than a decade in Central Florida through its partnership with Embrace Families, Florida’s lead agency for child welfare services.
“The diversion team was seeing that a lot of kids who were being put into foster care didn’t fit the criteria; it’s just that they weren’t getting along with their parents,” said YAP Program Director Seyny Dressler. “Embrace Families has seen over the years that we’re uniquely equipped to fight for families. By having YAP on call 24/7 to do what we do best – meet youth and families facing complex challenges where they are to give them tools to stabilize and remain together – Embrace Families is saving the state a lot of money.”
YAP Advocates and mobile therapists receive training that enables them to help program participants see and nurture their strengths, while connecting their parents/guardians to resources they need to firm up the family foundation. Through its Embrace Families’ partnership, YAP serves 100 youths each year in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties. Since launching the Rapid Response service last month, the special team of YAP Rapid Response Coordinators has already served 12 families on the spot, successfully getting all parents who initially refused to let their children come home to change their minds.
In many cases, such as the one with the youth returning from out of state, Embrace Families supported the family in continuing to receive YAP’s stabilization and wraparound services after the initial emergency intervention. Services are unique to each family and include connecting the youth, parents/guardians, and other family members with sustainable individualized economic, educational, or emotional tools, whatever they need to help young people achieve positive goals while preserving family unification.
“Our goal is relationship building, helping families develop a plan to ensure the safety of children and families,” said YAP Tri-State Regional Director LaVeisha Cummings. “It’s applying the evidence-based YAP wraparound services delivery approach to immediately address the family’s challenges with safe, solution-focused interventions.”
When the state’s Child Protective Investigation hotline receives a call from families that involves refusing to let a youth return home, YAP is contacted and prepared to respond immediately.
To learn more about YAP, please visit www.YAPInc.org.
Photographed on attached image: YAP Rapid Response Team; L-to-R: Richard McFarland, Assistant Program Director Ixzumary Alvarez-Gutierrez, Program Coordinator/Lead Advocate, Sayan Trotman, Program Coordinator, Bently Bradford, Program Coordinator, Casey Thomas, Program Coordinator, Seyny Dressler, Program Director