Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s Community-Based Alternative to Incarceration Recognized as “Promising” by Federal Evaluators - Article Details

Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc.’s Community-Based Alternative to Incarceration Recognized as “Promising” by Federal Evaluators

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Oct. 18, 2019 – As Americans seek safe, effective justice reform, Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. is pleased to announce that Federal evaluators have identified its community-based alternative to youth incarceration model as “promising.”

YAP is a new addition to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) “Promising Programs” list and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)’s Model Programs Guide. Currently, 58 percent of the criminal justice, youth justice and crime victim programs and practices on are categorized as Promising; 26 percent are listed under No Effects; and 16 percent are identified as Effective. The ratings are based on rigorous evaluation.

Founded 44 years ago, YAP serves nearly 20,000 youth and families in more than 100 communities in 28 states and the District of Columbia and expects to expand to at least a half dozen more states by the end of 2020. Youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, developmental disabilities/autism, education and other systems partner with YAP to provide or adapt the nonprofit’s unique Safely Home community-based wraparound model to serve individuals at the highest risk of institutionalization. Without YAP, the prospect for the nonprofit’s justice program youth is immediate incarceration for violent and other offenses.  

“For years, YAP’s effectiveness has been reflected in our outcomes reporting and through quasi-experimental university-based and other independent research; and we’re presently  participating in some random control-trial [RCT] studies,” said YAP Research Associate Joe Durso. “We’re delighted that the YAP model already warrants OJP and OJJDP ‘promising’ status; and we plan to  renew our submission when the RCT research is completed.”

YAP’s model is guided by principles that reflect the nonprofit’s mission to keep young people and families Safely Home together. Staff adhere to a no-reject, no eject policy; are available 24 hours, seven days a week; and serve the entire family, ensuring that they have voice, choice and ownership in their individualized service plans. Committed to cultural and linguistic competence, YAP matches youth and families with professional advocate mentors with similar backgrounds, interests, and when possible, shared zip codes. YAP’s services are strength-based, empowering youth and families with tools to identify their gifts and talents, while connecting them to accessible resources to help them pursue their vocational, educational and personal goals and give back to their communities.

YAP’s OJP promising rating was based primarily on outcomes of quasi-experimental research conducted by Michael J. Karcher, Ed.D., Ph.D., of the University of Texas, San Antonio and David Johnson, Ph.D. of Wake Forest University. The 2016 OJJDP-funded study compared 164 YAP participants to a group of pre-program enrollment youth. The researchers found that one-year post program discharge, youth who had completed the YAP program reported a statistically significant lower number of serious dispositions; more improvement in school attendance and connectedness to teachers; greater efforts to secure employment; and a decrease in misconduct.

The YAP OJP submission included additional data from quasi-experimental research focusing on its  program in Orlando, FL., conducted by Jeffrey Butts, Ph.D., and Doug Evans, Ph.D., of the John Jay Research and Evaluation Center. The study compared outcomes of 249 youth who were under the supervision of the probation department to those of 249 YAP participants, who were involved in both child welfare and youth justice systems. The researchers noted that the YAP program dual-systems youth “had more mental health diagnoses, more frequent suicidal ideations, and more extensive histories of physical and sexual abuse.”  The study found that while YAP youth were the “more challenging client population,” within two years of completing services, the rate at which they were committed to state institutions was 4 percent compared to 21 percent of the youth who were under supervision. In addition, the study estimated Orange County, FL would have saved nearly $700,000 if the 249 youth on probation had been referred to YAP instead.

YAP advocate mentors meet with youth from 7.5 hours to 30 hours (unusually high compared to traditional mentoring services) per week, over a six-month period. In addition to expanding service in the U.S., YAP has worked with global organizations to design programs based on the Safely Home model in Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Sierra Leone and Guatemala.

For more information on YAP, please visit


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Ryanne Persinger,
National Communications Director

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