Reconnecting Communities and Juvenile Offenders

by Jennifer Neutel: For More Info, Go Here…

ngd-This is especially important if the offender has a disability. It is not uncommon for learning disabilities or symptoms of mental illness, for example, to be identified during juvenile custody. The default for a return to the community tends to be ignoring that info….

From meeting with gang leaders and asking their permission to work with their members to helping families get their shot-out windows repaired, Gary Ivory shared stories from his pioneering work with Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) in Tarrant County, Texas, during an Abundant Community Zoom conversation with Peter Block and John McKnight.

Ivory is now Senior Executive Officer and National Director of Program Development of Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., which is working in 24 states. The YAP model develops community-based alternatives for juvenile offenders, allowing issues to be worked through at home and in the neighborhood instead of in a correctional institution.

Ivory’s YAP work in Tarrant County started in 1992 when the governor invested in community-based alternatives. The county had one of the highest homicide juvenile crime rates in the country. The YAP approach partners an advocate from the neighborhood with a young offender to work on what is needed for them to become stable.

YAP directors who recruit the advocates and supervise are called wizards, a term from psychologist Marty Beyer. The wizards use “Zip Code Recruiting” to find and hire advocates from the same neighborhood as the youth who was referred from the state juvenile justice system. The credentials an advocate needs are not academic but are traits like compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness, and the willingness to not judge people. Once hired, advocates are trained and then connected to the young person and their family. They work with the youth anywhere from five to 15 hours per week, depending on what’s needed at the time.

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