Harrisburg, Penn. – With the arrival of summer when gun violence tends to spike, Youth Advocate Programs’ (YAP), Inc. credible messengers are collaborating with local neighborhood partners to ensure that individuals who are most likely to commit acts of violence receive economic, educational, and emotional tools to make positive choices.
“As we employ evidence-based violence prevention tactics this summer, we’re assuring our public safety program partners that we are also doing what YAP does best,” said YAP National Violence Prevention Program Director Fred Fogg. “We’re connecting community members with individualized wraparound services, empowering our program participants with tools to turn their lives around.”
A national nonprofit in nearly 150 communities in 33 states and the District of Columbia, YAP has a 47-year history of partnering with systems leaders to provide community-based services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate child welfare, behavioral health, and other residential placements. Increasingly, as communities look to implement more effective and racially equitable public safety systems, YAP has also been combining its wraparound services model with other evidence-based approaches to help cities curb violence.
YAP’s Violence Prevention programs, now in 11 cities/counties, are partnerships designed to meet each community’s unique needs. Some programs serve youth and families in specific neighborhoods, and others support caseloads of individuals identified as being at the highest risk of engaging in violence. Staff, also known as credible messengers because of experiences they have in common with individuals they serve, are YAP employees. Some program partners work with YAP on hiring decisions and others require final approval. Depending on program specifications, individuals on YAP’s caseloads are staff-recruited, referred from city/county public safety and other partners, or are self-enrolled. Consistent with the national nonprofit’s “No reject; no eject” policy, YAP accepts every referral, connecting program participants with services they need to achieve positive outcomes before moving them off their caseloads.
“We aim to provide people who are at the highest risk of being involved in or impacted by violence with alternatives,” Fogg said. “Individuals we serve who have the potential to commit acts of violence include those recently released from prison or jail, have been gang involved, or have recently lost loved ones to gun violence and are considering retaliation.”
Among best practices, this summer YAP programs are hosting neighborhood-based resource events and job fairs; connecting individuals with expungement, mental/behavioral health, parenting, and restorative justice services; and assisting individuals with housing, food, utilities, and other basic needs.
YAP has implemented its Violence Prevention programs through partnerships in Baltimore, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and most recently, five New Jersey counties.
In partnership with Children’s Home & Aid in Chicago, YAP is the program provider for Choose to Change (C2C), which University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab evaluators found reduces violent crime arrests by more than 48% among young people heavily impacted by violence. YAP’s decades of service include working with many young people whose histories include serious offenses, multiple arrests, and lengthy out-of-home placements. John Jay College of Criminal Justice research found 86% of YAP’s youth justice participants remain arrest free, and six – 12 months after completing the program, nearly 90% of the youth still lived in their communities with less than 5% of participants in secure placement.
Learn more about YAP at www.yapinc.org.