Youth Advocate Programs(YAP) believes we all need access to safe places and positive connections in our communities to fully develop our strengths and realize our potential. For many individuals and families, these fundamental building blocks of healthy development are unavailable, obstructed or difficult to access.

For more than four decades, YAP has built bridges between families and communities, opening access to critical tools like mentoring; social connections; medical and mental health services; education and vocational services; and other resources individuals need for positive development.


Individuals YAP serves come to us through partnerships with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, education and other systems committed to our strength-based individualized service model.

Through relationships with legislators, local nonprofits, places of worship and community influencers, we are able to give families access to tools they need to develop social, emotional, financial and physical well-being.

YAP’s work is built on a foundation of research demonstrating that people do better throughout life when they have support where they live, work, learn and play. YAP Advocates are from the neighborhoods we serve and available when and where young people and families prefer to meet.

Having access to positive relationships, spaces, activities and services empowers individuals and families to maximize their potential, which creates healthy and vibrant communities.


Our mission is to provide individuals who are, have been or may be subject to compulsory care with the opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued as assets so that communities have safe, proven effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement.



What We Believe

We Believe

the needs of individuals and families - even those with complex needs - can safely and most effectively be met within a home and community setting.

We Believe

every individual possesses strengths, potential, interests and talents that make them unique and can be built upon and shared.

We Believe

everyone needs access to positive people, places and activities within their community to develop their natural potential and live full, productive lives.

We Believe

partnering with families to identify their needs and preferences preserves dignity and improves outcomes.

We Believe

investing in community-based programming is a cost-effective, responsible alternative to out-of-home placements.


Our History

Camp Hill Prison
YAP's Start
In 1975, Pennsylvania enacted the removal of 400 juveniles from the Camp Hill state prison. To meet the needs of some of those youth and help return them to the Central Pennsylvania community, Tom Jeffers created a community-based program called Youth Advocate Programs.
YAP office
Founded and Incorporated
November, 1975
Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. is founded and incorporated on November 3rd, 1975.
Child Welfare
First Child Welfare Program
Eager for the opportunity to help keep kids and families together, YAP opens its first Child Welfare program in Pennsylvania.
Supported Work
The Birth of Supported Work
Supported Work, a hallmark intervention for our youth justice participants, is introduced to develop job skills and positive work habits through transitional job experience that may lead to long-term employment.
YAP Expands to Other States
The first program outside of Pennsylvania opens in 1978 in Camden, NJ. Today YAP has programs in over half the country.
New Jersey
NJ Bring Our Children Home Act
YAP partners with NJ leaders to bring about statewide system change by helping to author the "Bring Our Children Home Act," mandating the return of children and youth in out-of-home placements. YAP introduces its wraparound/advocacy model, provides training and works directly with young people and their families to bring 1,400 kids back to NJ.
YAP's international work begins in Guatemala, supporting Carlos Toledo, founder of the National Movement for Street Children. The Movement provides outreach to the nation's most oppressed and forgotten population and provides shelter care and job placements, in additional to national advocacy. Over the years, YAP has worked with 15+ countries to provide training and consultation, professional and youth exchanges, and sister agency solidarity and support.
Behavioral Health
Behavioral Health, ASD and I/DD Expansion
Between 1995 and 1999, YAP sees exponential growth in its behavioral health, autism and intellectual/developmental disability programming.
External Board of Directors Implemented
In 2003, founder Tom Jeffers retires as YAP CEO and implements our first external board of directors.
Youth Endowment Fund
In 2004, YAP establishes the Youth Endowment Fund to provide scholarships to YAP youth and caregivers who are pursuing post-secondary education and vocational training.
COA Accreditation
August 2009
YAP receives recognition for complying with the nationally recognized standards of best practice at all levels of the organization set forth by the Council on Accreditation, the accrediting body for behavioral healthcare and human service organizations. We have since been reaccredited twice.
Policy and Advocacy Center
January 2012
YAP launches the Policy and Advocacy Center to further promote policies and influence systems change that creates or invests greater resources in families and communities and reduces reliance on institutionalization.
Safely Home Campaign
Safely Home Campaign
YAP joins The Safely Home Campaign, a nationwide movement to safely care for all youth and young adults in their home communities and with their families by reducing and prevention unnecessary out-of-home placements and creating safer, more supportive communities for at-risk young people.