Saginaw, Michigan – At 16, he said he finally understands that it pays to listen to his parents. It’s a lesson that came when months in juvenile detention and group homes failed to change his behavior. The youth, whose name this publication is withholding for confidentiality purposes, said it wasn’t until he met Brian Palmer with Michigan Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc. that he began to see his strengths and work with his parents to achieve his goals.
“I was in trouble before YAP,” the youth said. “Now I am working on listening a lot more right now and helping around the house. (Brian) helps me with everything.”
YAP, a national nonprofit in 31 states and the District of Columbia, provides community-based alternatives to detention, youth prison and other away-from-home congregate placements.
“He’s a lot more open now. He’s had issues with his anger, but he’s working really hard toward that,” Palmer said. “I love interacting with the kids and knowing that I can actually help them change for the better.”
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), refers youths at moderate to high-risk of being placed in residential facilities to the community-based alternative. With its “no-reject, no-eject” policy and track record with its evidence-based model, YAP accepts all program partner referrals.
Since launching in Michigan in late 2020, YAP has served youths in Saginaw, Mecosta, Osceola, Ogemaw, Roscommon, Isabella, and Clare counties. MDHHS brought YAP in with start-up funding from the nonprofit’s Safely Home grant, made possible through a generous donation to the nonprofit from Ballmer Group.
YAP’s culturally competent, mostly neighborhood-based Advocates help young people identify their strengths and empower them and their parents with accessible tools to turn the youths’ lives around. In addition to supporting the program participant, Palmer also served as an Advocate to one of his brothers and works with the entire family to ensure that all seven children’s basic needs are met, firming the family’s foundation.
“I taught them how to barbecue, fish and let them cook lunch for us,” Palmer said. “It’s a good coping and life skill to go out and make dinner for yourself.” “Central Michigan lends itself to fishing and outdoor activities that teach patience and other good coping skills, he added.
“Before (the boys) got into the program, they were agitated and they didn’t listen very much because they thought they could do what they wanted to do which is what most teenagers do nowadays,” the youth’s stepdad George Crawley said. “Now YAP seems to be helping. If we need someone to talk to or for advice, they are right there. They work with the whole family.”