DORA - Attendees at Tuesday's East Walker Chamber of Commerce meeting learned about the Youth Advocate Program (YAP) and YAP House in Jasper, which serves high-risk youth involved in the juvenile …
DORA - Attendees at Tuesday's East Walker Chamber of Commerce meeting learned about the Youth Advocate Program (YAP) and YAP House in Jasper, which serves high-risk youth involved in the juvenile justice system.
According to the YAP website, the organization "offers alternatives to detention and state incarceration, supports post-adjudication to help with compliance and other needs, and also provides reintegration support for youth transitioning out of these placements."
"Originally, we started out as a deterrent to out-of-home detention services," explained Tina Aaron, a YAP representative who served as Tuesday's speaker. "YAP's model really believes that we can serve our clients better if they are in the home and not incarcerated.
"We are trying to turn these kids around while we have the chance," she continued.
She said they have helped juveniles as young as 12 years old and up to 17 years old.
The YAP provides the juveniles with an advocate for a certain period of time and also helps teach them life skills, such as cooking and budgeting, and assists with education and career matters. The YAP House also serves as a location for children who have been removed from their family to visit with their parents or siblings.
Juveniles are only taken on by the YAP through referrals from the city and county school systems, juvenile court and DHR. Currently, YAP has around 100 juveniles on their roster.
"We have kids that fall in love with our advocates because they are yearning for that attention and support and all those things," Aaron said. "We really love our kids. Sometimes the hardest part is telling them 'you're done with the program.'"
She stressed that the juveniles they help have not committed major crimes and that they are unable to take on certain matters, such as substance abuse issues.
Aaron said that the organization doesn't always have all the funds it needs to provide things for the juveniles but that the community always steps up to help.
"I can't think of a need that hasn't been met," she said.
She continued, "We work hard to show them opportunities and to find their strengths that they have. ... We don't cookie cutter anything" because not all children are going to follow the same paths.
The YAP House is located on 20th Street and 4th Avenue in Jasper.