Youth Advocate Program (YAP)
Supporting young people leaving out-of-home care to connect with their communities and lead successful lives.
The Youth Advocate Program (YAP) originated in the United States as a family support initiative for juvenile offenders returning to their community after spending time in correctional institutions. Today YAP Inc. is one of the largest non-profit agencies in the United States working with high-risk youth and their families in a strengths based, needs led advocacy model.
Life Without Barriers commenced trialling YAP in Sydney in 2014, with a focus on assisting young people make a successful transition from residential care to leading successful lives in their communities.
These young people have experienced a range of difficulties around their families, peer group relationships, education, behaviour and community involvement.
Relationships between the Advocates and the people they support are developed around the needs and aspirations of each young person. Advocates work intensively with individual young people and their families for up to 6 months, focused on rebuilding relationships and helping them to develop skills to participate in community life.
Transitioning into suitable living arrangements, with or without ‘drop-in’ support, is among assistance that Advocates deliver. Practical assistance for young people and family members can also involve getting a driver’s licence, finding employment, exploring education options, learning how to budget, developing knowledge and confidence to join a community group or re-connecting with the culture.
YAP is being independently evaluated with the good outcomes including:
- improved results in education, and school engagement
- enhanced links to community
- improvements in social behaviour
- family restoration
- transition to independence or semi-independence
21 young people commenced the program. 14 have so far graduated and achieved the goals they set when they entered the program. Five are due to graduate. The two young people who finished the program with partially-met goals, both reported having improved relations with their families.
Fifteen-year-old Justin* has been in foster care since he was 12. When his foster care placement broke down he started living in an Life Without Barriers Residential Service. Justin was matched with an Aboriginal Advocate, who worked closely with the House Manager:
The House Manager and the Advocate support each other to support Justin:
Justin's mum is also getting the support she needs from YAP - mental health care, church and a women's group. Justin now sees his family regularly and is working towards restoration with his mum.
Justin is now flourishing and is looking forward to a bright future. He is captain of his AFL footy team and because he’s a talented player he often gets picked to play for teams in other footy associations. Justin goes to a sports high school and has progressed from not attending at all, to being at school every week day.