Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. > Our Impact > Research and Evaluation

Research and Evaluation

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Recent Studies

  • Advocate, Intervene, Mentor (AIM) Study
  • University of Texas/San Antonio (UTSA)
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • Advanced Metrics
  • Chicago Crime Lab
  • Center for Outcome Analysis

In late 2018 the Urban Institute released its final report on its study of New York City’s Advocate, Intervene, Mentor (AIM) program. The study involved 229 participants from five NYC boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island). The predominately male (77%) youth in the study were between the ages of 13 and 18. Youth were predominantly African-American (81%) or Hispanic (16%); all were deemed to be at high criminogenic risk.

Launched in 2012, AIM shares fundamental similarities to YAP’s wraparound advocacy model. Both programs seek to reduce the use of costly out-of-home placement and to enhance community safety by reducing the likelihood that adolescents on probation will re-offend. Both programs use a one-on-one mentoring model built around paid, culturally competent advocate-mentors who are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Both programs employ a “no eject/ no reject” intake policy and offer interventions that follow Individual Service Plans (ISPs) formed during family team meetings. Both models use the same dose (8 - 10 hours/week) and duration (6 - 9 months).

Key Urban Institute findings about the AIM study included the following:

  • More than 90% of participants avoided felony re-arrest within 12 months of enrollment — far exceeding the program target of 60%.
  • More than two-thirds of participants completed the program without an out-of-home placement; when status violations are excluded, this figure rises to > 80%.
  • Less than 10% of participants received a felony adjudication in juvenile (family) court and only 3% were convicted of a felony in adult (criminal) court within one year of program end.

YAP youth represented 36% of all study participants. Moreover, YAP provided services to all of the youth from the Bronx – the largest geographic sub-group. Youth from the Bronx had the lowest rate of felony arrests both within six months of enrolling in the program (7.4% compared to average of 12.5% in the four other boroughs) and within twelve months of enrolling (5.3% compared to average of 11.8% in the four other boroughs).

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.

YAP employs the CANS (Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths) assessment tool in our juvenile justice, child welfare, and truancy programs in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The CANS assessment tool evaluates how clients are progressing in a number of life domains, strengths, emotional needs and risk behaviors. YAP has engaged Steve Herr, Ph.D., to analyze our CANS data. Dr. Herr is affiliated Advanced Metrics and formerly with the University of Maryland. It is anticipated that the CANS data will allow Dr. Herr and U. of Md. to produce and hopefully publish the results of their research and thus provide further evidence of the effectiveness of the YAP wraparound advocacy model.  

Chicago Crime Lab researchers are conducting a comparison group study of YAP youth in Chicago that is funded by a grant from the “Get In Chicago” Foundation and will focus on the degree that positive community linkages can contribute to positive youth development and reduced recidivism.

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.


Past Studies

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:
  • higher program completion rates
  • lower rates of placement into residential foster care
  • lower re-arrest rates
  • low numbers of young people who are AWOL
  • greater residential stability
Additionally, findings using other measures of success revealed that young person’s served in YAP programs:
  • achieved reductions in risks and needs;
  • improvements in quality of life
  • positive results in education
  • enhanced links with community activities
  • improvements in social behavior

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.