Baldwin County, Ala. – Kayla Miracle-Landicho remembers sobbing outside of a courtroom during a hearing because a Youth Advocate Program (YAP), Inc. program participant and her sister had nowhere to live and there was no availability for the siblings to remain together in a foster care home.
Miracle-Landicho was India’s YAP Advocate and had pushed to get her back in school before going on maternity leave. But when Miracle-Landicho returned to work she learned that India had not been in school, had no adequate housing and no one was helping her meet her basic needs.
The day Miracle-Landicho was crying outside the courtroom, she was on the phone with her husband. Without hesitation they agreed to take India and her younger sister Amara home to live with them. Three years later after serving as foster parents to the girls, the couple was finally able to adopt Amara in December 2021. By then, because India was 18, they were not able to adopt her, but the family says she, too, is now their daughter.
YAP is a national nonprofit in more than 100 communities in 33 states and the District of Columbia that provides community-based services as an alternative to youth incarceration, congregate out-of-home placement and treatment, and neighborhood violence by partnering with youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, public safety, schools, and other systems. YAP does this by hiring and training neighborhood and school-based Advocates who work with youth and families, empowering them with tools to see their strengths and connecting them with resources to help them achieve positive goals.
“At first, I wasn’t in the program, my sister India was, and I just came along,” 17-year-old Amara said. “(Kayla) has definitely helped me. I am happy she’s my guardian. I couldn’t be with anyone better.”
Miracle-Landicho has worked for YAP Baldwin County, Alabama for five years where she currently serves as the administrative manager for In-Home Services. She was India’s Advocate when she was a participant in Baldwin County YAP’s Multi-State Mentoring Program and had truancy issues with school.
“They are good girls who needed a good environment to thrive in. They just needed to be able focus on things and to not worry about where their next meal would come from and if the power was going to go out,” said Miracle-Landicho. “They’ve never done anything wrong; just normal teenage stuff.”
At the time Miracle-Landicho took the sisters in, she had not only just returned from maternity leave; she had recently found out she was pregnant again.
“I went from having no kids to four kids in a year,” Miracle-Landicho said, adding that she has two children who are 11 months apart. “My children range from teenagers to babies. My husband and I had just had a baby, but these girls had no one and needed us. I will forever be grateful because working for YAP has given me two beautiful daughters.”
Amara is shy but is doing well in school and with her new family. Miracle-Landicho also became Amara’s Advocate before she adopted her.
Amara said now she has lots of structure in her life and is making A’s and B’s in school. India, now 19, is also doing well, and plans to enter college in the fall.
“I wouldn’t be here today if my sister had not been introduced to YAP,” Amara added. “I think it’s a great program. I learned a lot of stuff.”
Miracle-Landicho says she didn’t have a great childhood herself and although she’s young, she believes her daughters can relate to her and that they trust her. She moved to Alabama from Detroit with her husband five years ago and found work immediately at YAP.
“I truly believed I needed to be working with YAP and the youth here,” she said. “Without YAP, all these kids we’ve helped would not have been where they are now.”
Miracle-Landicho added, “I am only 28 years-old and I plan to retire with YAP. I love the mission. This organization has given me such great purpose and has been a blessing to our communities. I can’t see myself working anywhere else. YAP is my home.”