When Anthony Stanziale started hearing news reports about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, his first thought was, “How is this going to affect young people in our program?” Anthony is an Advocate with Delaware Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., where he supports young people on probation when they come home from detention facilities.
YAP’s individualized intensive youth mentoring and holistic family support model serves as an alternative to out-of-home placement. YAP partners with child welfare, youth justice and other social services systems in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
“I worked in education for ten years before I became a YAP Advocate,” Stanziale said. “I watched kids struggle and wanted to go the extra mile. As an Advocate, I have the freedom to provide all the support youth need. We go to their court dates with them, help them get jobs and help their families at the same time.”
By mid-March, school districts across Delaware were closing and employers were sending workers home. Delaware YAP Program Director Ian “Jahiti” Smith urged his staff to practice social distancing and creatively develop and implement virtual services. It was important that teleservices adhere to the 45-year-old nonprofit’s model of helping young people identify their strengths and connecting them with tools to achieve their goals.
“Fortunately, youth and families in our program all have face-to-face technology that we’re using to provide services,” Stanziale said. The Delaware YAP team, some of them musicians, quickly brainstormed and worked together to create teleservice activities and schedules to keep young people and families on track. For his contribution to the idea pool, Anthony put on his former middle school teacher hat.
“There are all kinds of online learning resources in addition to grade-level digital classroom work that parents need to make sure their kids have, he said. “For YAP program youth, missing school can mean missing meals; I wanted to make sure parents had a way to easily access all the resources they’ll need.”
Stanziale researched links to statewide school district classroom assignments as well as times and locations for school bus meal drop-offs, grab-and-go lunch pick-ups, and neighborhood food banks. He put all the information in a single document that would become a Delaware YAP Family News You Can Use digital resource. Three weeks into the crisis, Stanziale has published a second newsletter that includes information about coronavirus testing and other health resources.
“The easiest way for us to get information to youth and families is by text,” Stanziale said. “I wanted to keep it simple; so, I just created a PDF document with all the links. We send it by cellphone so it’s easy to access and save as a picture.”
The Delaware YAP team has not missed a beat. They’re using technology to keep program youth engaged, while also ensuring that their family foundation is as firm as possible.
“We’re now using FaceTime and Zoom to support the young people in our programs and their families. That includes working with parents to support their technology needs so they can be actively involved with their child’s individualized service plan.”
This week, using teleservices, Stanziale helped two program participants locate potential job opportunities and fill out online applications.
“Especially now with the need for more employees at grocery stores, the job market is great for young people. The Delaware YAP team is using all our talent and resources to help program participants become successful and stay out of placement.”
Learn more about YAP at www.YAPinc.org.