Nearly 1000 New Jersey youth will lose their Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. services if proposed cuts by DCF are accepted by Governor Phil Murphy. For four decades, the state has relied on the nonprofit and its evidence-based intensive, in-home, wraparound advocacy model to keep youth with their families or stable in resource foster homes as an alternative to out-of-home placements and youth prison.
Like other New Jersey nonprofits, YAP, which operates in all 21 New Jersey counties, was hit hard financially due to COVID 19.
“Removing YAP from the lives of children and families whose challenges are even greater in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant setback in a critical continuum of care proven to put kids on a positive trajectory,” said YAP CEO Jeff Fleischer. “In the not so long run, the result will be more dollars spent of expensive, often faraway residential placements and youth prison.”
Seventy percent of YAP’s program participants are youth of color, primarily Black and Latino. Seventy-five percent of the nonprofit’s staff are also people of color, with lived experience and knowledge of culture, language, and the resources of the neighborhoods they serve.
On call 24-hours, YAP’s community-based Advocates provide intensive, strength-based, family focused, trauma informed, wraparound family support to fill critical gaps for youth who have individual and family challenges that are very complex. The Advocates address the root causes of the youths’ parental and family struggles. YAP employees rely on their teammates and community partners to connect young people and their families with accessible educational, life skills and employment resources. They ensure that lack of food; shelter; transportation for court hearings, doctors’ appointments, visits with incarcerated loved ones; and other challenges don’t impede progress. YAP Advocates also provide respite for parents and guardians when they need support.
“For the first time since 1978, New Jersey youth in need in our child welfare system will not have a program to provide the trusting relationships between local staff and youth and families, nor the support and resources, to stabilize youth in family settings and to prevent out of home placements.,” Fleischer said. “We are hopeful that the state legislature and or the governor’s office will restore the funds back to YAP and other nonprofits that were hit hard by COVID-19 and now, these harsh DCF cuts.”
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