Who We Are

Youth Advocate Programs— YAP for short— is a national nonprofit advocating for and delivering evidence-based services in homes and communities as a more effective and equitable alternative to youth incarceration and group child welfare, behavioral health, and intellectual disabilities placements. We also partner with public safety systems to help curb and neighborhood violence.

YAP recognizes that generational poverty and structural racism and bias have contributed to educational, employment, health, and other disparities in communities across the U.S. and globally. Among these disparities are the disproportionate numbers of youth and adults of color who are incarcerated or living in other out-of-home facilities, such as group homes, residential treatment centers and others.

By redirecting justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and other social services dollars from youth prisons and other residential facilities to communities where our program participants live, we are helping our systems partners achieve racial equity in their service delivery and outcomes, which are strengthened with our evidence-based model.


We hire neighborhood-based, culturally responsive Advocates and mobile behavioral health professionals, which helps to keep local dollars and resources in the communities we serve. YAP Advocates are skilled in engaging youth and families. They meet program participants and their parents and guardians where they are and provide them with tools to lead and direct their individual and family service plans.

Led by the program participant and family and what they identify as their needs, hopes and interests, frontline YAP staff connect youth with tools that empower them to learn new skills and introduce them to people and places that provide meaningful supports in their community. Advocates, for example, identify neighborhood businesses where young people can gain work experience (at no cost to the business). YAP staff also connect program participants with other nonprofits where young people and their parents and guardians can access educational, workforce and other training, along with basic needs resources, that are fundamental to strengthening program participants’ family foundation.

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.

Having access to positive relationships, spaces, opportunities, and services, empowers individuals and families, which contributes to creating healthy and vibrant communities.


YAP’s mission is to deliver and advocate for safe and effective community-based alternatives to residential care and incarceration that empower individuals, families, and neighborhoods to thrive.



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

we all need access to safe places and positive connections in our communities to fully develop our strengths and realize our potential.

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.

We Believe

that we must partner with communities and systems leaders to deliver more effective and racially equitable alternatives to incarceration, congregate placement, and neighborhood violence.


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.
With Founder's Retirement, Leadership Restructuring
In 2003, founder Tom Jeffers retires, appointing Jeff Fleischer as YAP CEO and implementing the 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.
Jeff Fleischer
Services Expand to Public Safety
YAP expands services continuum to include violence prevention and interruption services known as Community-Based Safety Initiatives to fill critical public safety gaps.
Jeff Fleischer
CEO Jeff Fleischer Retires
YAP's longtime CEO Jeff Fleischer has retired after working at the national nonprofit for the last 38 years, 20 at the helm. Through his leadership, he was able to help advance community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and congregate placement and led YAP to scale our model nationally and globally.