Youth Advocate Program (YAP)
Age group: Late childhood (7-11); Adolescence (12-17)
Gender: Mixed (male and female)
Population served: Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)
Topic: Academic issues; Antisocial/deviant behaviours; Bullying/cyberbullying; Gang and/or related criminal activities
Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting
Location: Nova Scotia
Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1
Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention
The Youth Advocate Program (YAP) is an intervention that addresses the risk factors that make youth vulnerable to gang influence and involvement, such as a lack of school attachment and positive role models, low self-esteem, engagement in antisocial behaviour, poor family relationships, and bullying.
YAP was based on the Wraparound approachFootnote1 and was centered on community mobilization; conflict resolution; counselling and social work; family therapy; leadership and youth development; parent training; skills training; and social emotional learning.
The main goals of the YAP are to:
- Reduce isolation, stresses and negative rushes among youth at risk of gang activities and their families;
- Increase protective factors related to self-reliance, resilience, and prosocial and life skills; and
- Increase knowledge related to the YAP so that families and communities in areas of the city with elevated levels of crime could proactively respond to youth at risk of joining gangs.
The appropriate clientele for the YAP are youth between the ages of 9 and 15 who are at risk of engaging in gang-related activities and antisocial and criminal behaviours. This program is voluntary.
Participants are referred to the YAP by their families, community agencies, and any other concerned party with whom the youth are affiliated. To participate in the program, youth must display characteristics that would make them vulnerable to gang membership and/or gang activities. Lastly, youth must demonstrate a greater acceptance of gang-related behaviour and violence.
Based on the most current information, youth aged 9 to15 who have at least 2 of the following risk factors can be referred the YAP (an online referral form is available):
Risk Factor Checklist
- Alcohol or drug use
- Frequently in trouble with the law/involved in criminal activity
- High commitment to friends involved in criminal activity
- Friends/family members are gang members
- Conflict between home and school life
- Gangs in and around school/neighbourhood
- Lack of adult role models, parental criminality/violent attitudes, siblings with antisocial behaviours
The YAP consists of:
- The participant action plan: The action plan includes five hours of weekly components tailored to the youths’ needs including recreation activities, therapy, academic tutoring, group counselling and discussion, youth support teams, one-on-one time, referrals for parents, and direct advocacy to service providers for the youth and their families;
- Life skills training: This training is directed toward healthy and prosocial behaviours and are delivered by the youth advocate workers during “teachable moments”; and
- Joint activities: Youth and their families work in collaboration with school representatives to improve school performance including attendance, behaviour, homework, and participation in extra-curricular activities.
Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:
- Organizational requirements: The lead organization must mobilize community members by participating in events and raising awareness of the YAP during these events.
- Partnerships: The success of the YAP depends on its partnerships with various non-profit, private, and government organizations. These organizations are encouraged to attend meetings with youth advocate workers to share information about the YAP program and build professional relationships.
- Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained about the Wraparound approach. All staff must have university degrees and a high standard of community awareness and direct intervention skills.
- Risk assessment tools: Youth are evaluated using the Youth Advocate Program Screening Tool (YAPST).
- Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.
The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:
- Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
- Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
- SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
- Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.
Gathering Canadian Knowledge
Canadian Implementation Sites
Public Safety Canada's National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the YAP in Halifax, Nova Scotia between 2008 and 2011. The YAP was implemented by the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).
Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies
As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of the YAP was conducted in 2011 by Ungar and colleagues through a quasi-experimental design. Quantitative data was collected using the Youth Advocate Program Screening Tool (YAPST). The YAPST was re-administered every six months and following the youths’ exit from the program. Altogether, 73 youth completed the YAPST and 81 parents/guardians completed the YAPST PMK.
Results from this evaluation showed the following:
- There was an increase in all prosocial/life skills competencies. This increase is equated with an increase in resilience, which is considered to be a buffer against delinquency and related behaviours, and gang involvement; and
- Participants' positive beliefs about aggression decreased slightly at exit relative to their beliefs at entry to the YAP. Attitudes towards gangs also became more negative, with a mean score approaching the scale minimum of zero. Though not statistically significant, the attachment to school scores for youth who graduated from YAP increased (with the mean score of 4.08 at exit nearing the maximum possible score on the scale of 5.00).
For more information, refer to the National Crime Prevention Centre’s (2012) publication.
In 2011, the cost per youth involved in the YAP was approximately $27,758 (CAD) a year or $2,313 (CAD) a month (Ungar et al., 2011).
National Crime Prevention Centre. (2012). Youth Advocate Program. Evaluation Summary. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/yth-dvct/index-eng.aspx
Ungar, M., et al. (2011). Final Report: Youth Advocate Program (YAP) Evaluation. Final Evaluation Report. Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).
For more information on this program, contact:
Youth Advocate Program
Captain William Spry Community Centre
16 Sussex Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3R 1N8
Telephone: (902) 490-4309
Record Updated On - 2018-04-23
For more information on Wraparound, refer to the program descriptive sheet.
A process evaluation study of the program was also conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.
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