YOUTH POWER nothing about us without us YP!

In this YP! Enews
2012 Legislative Luncheon Gets a Great Dose of YP!
Working Hard to Eliminate Restraint & Seclusion
Juvenile Justice Reform Shapes Better Outcomes for Youth
Success in Albany - RAMP Outcomes
Join Action!
Fellowship Opportunity in Washington DC

2012 Legislative Luncheon Gets a Great Dose of YOUTH POWER!

By Colleen Deitrich

poster and button making tableValentine's Day, 2012-The Empire State Plaza Convention Center at the New York Capitol was packed with empowered youth and adult allies as the 2012 NYS Legislative Luncheon took place. Over 425 youth and adults came from all across the state to attend.


Families Together of New York State (FTNYS) and YOUTH POWER! (YP!) were there to educate on the importance of getting involved in government and to encourage people to speak to their representatives. Both FTNYS and YP! distributed advocacy agendas which highlighted some of the systems changes our members wish to see.   We provided the means for government officials to hear directly from young people and their families.


Among the guest speakers present at the event were leaders of FTNYS, Judge Corriero of NY Center of Juvenile Justice, as well as several Assembly people from throughout NYS.  Director of YP! Stephanie Orlando, RYP Pauline Gordon, and Board VP Christina Felix were also given the opportunity to speak at the podium. They addressed several YP! updates as well as the Priority Agenda.   The Commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, Gladys Carrion spoke after the YP! reps and committed to working with young people to address our concerns.


Another way YP! chose to educate and engage young people in the YP! 2012 Priority Agenda was to use activity stations with trivia games and prizes.  The trivia topics for this year included education systems improvement, ensuring quality Foster Care, and eliminating restraint and seclusion.  There were also tables to look up your legislative official and fill out a comment card, register to vote or to create buttons and posters to spread a message. This was the first year YP! had set up such tables at the event.

YOUTH POWER! considers the event a great success and looks forward to furthering our Priority Agenda.


Click on the links to download the YP! 2012 Priority Agenda and the FTNYS Policy Agenda.



Working Hard to Eliminate Restraint & Seclusion


Since the first year YP! became a organized network, we have been working to reduce and Girl draws poster that says stop the unnecessary use of restraint and seclusion eliminate restraint and seclusion across all systems. We are not making demands and leaving the hard work to "the professionals."  We are getting involved and helping to change the way young people are supported. As peers, we have an expertise to offer and it is a key ingredient to success. Recently, we have taken on a few new projects with the Office of Mental Health (OMH).  We are key members of a new Steering Committee which meets monthly to reduce restraint and seclusion use across all OMH services. We have also been working with children's psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment facilities to increase youth voice and person centered care. Most recently, we have teamed up with OMH to deliver eleven trainings in six locations for Children's Day Treatment Schools on the topic of Positive Alternatives to Restraint and Seclusion. 


We have had many people tell us that elimination is an unrealistic goal; however, we must try to stop these harmful interventions from happening.  There are many facilities that have been able to change the way they support people so that they no longer need to use restraint or seclusion. They have shared what they have learned other programs and facilities.  For instance, on February 29, 2012 from 2-3:30pm the Copeland Center will be hosting a Webinar on "Creating A Culture of Wellness: A Path To Eliminating Seclusion and Restraints."  (Click here for more information.)  The Office of Mental health has also put on a series of webinars which can be found at this link


Major changes in the way services are provided need to occur for us to see the use of restraint and seclusion stop. Charles Curie, an Administrator at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) said, "The initiative to reduce the use of seclusion and restraint is part of a broader effort to reorient the state mental health system toward a consumer focused philosophy that emphasizes recovery and independence ... Seclusion and restraint with its inherent physical force, chemical or physical bodily immobilization and isolation do not alleviate human suffering . It does not change behavior."  We must all work together to make this systems change a reality. This year, YP! will continue to work with OMH and expand our efforts in other systems, such as Education and Juvenile Justice.  We will stop this harmful practice. 


NY's Juvenile Justice Reform Aims to Shape Better Outcomes for Youth

By Pauline Gordon 

Many can agree that within the past decade, New York's Juvenile Justice (JJ) system has failed us. New York City youth who entered the JJ system were usually placed in upstate facilities far away from their homes. Due to the long distance and expensive travel arrangements, families struggled to visit the youth placed in these facilities. Unfortunately, this is just one of the numerous issues within our JJ system. Studies have shown that, New York State's juveniles are likely to reoffend. 89% of the boys and 81% of the girls will have been rearrested by the time they reach their 28th birthday (Coleman & Herzeld,2009). There was minimal emphasis on rehabilitation for youth in the system; instead, there were pathways leading into the adult prison system. In recent years, these issues have received public attention and are now being addressed.


For the past several years, New York's juvenile justice system has undergone many dramatic changes to help reduce youth incarceration and increase better outcomes for youth and their families. On September 2008, Governor David Paterson created a taskforce to give recommendation on transforming the juvenile justice system. As a result ongoing efforts have been made to transform the system to a more family-focused, therapeutic and community based model. The current changes are visible. The population in these facilities has dropped from a high of 2,313 kids in 2001 to 681 today. The number of beds has been reduced from 2,338 to 1403 between 2001 and 2010 (Ficano, 2009). Many youth that were held in custody at upstate facilities have been sent to facilities in the city so that they can be closer to home.


Another major improvement as a result of the juvenile justice reform was the Brooklyn for Brooklyn (B4B) Initiative. The B4B Initiative is a pilot program to form a model of the future of New York's juvenile justice system. The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) collaborated with the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and the Missouri Youth Services Institute (MYSI) and the B4B Initiative was launched as of April, 2011. The new model emphasizes the importance of community based and family-focused practices. The B4B has two placement facilities that have recently opened in Brooklyn: both a day placement and a residential program. The programs offer an array of services for youth focusing on improving their education and enhancing support for  after -care services for youth once transitioning out of OCFS custody. The facilities have small, therapeutic settings based within the community to catering the needs of Brooklyn residents held in OCFS custody.


As regional youth partner of YOUTH POWER!, I am excited about the latest reforms to the JJ system and support the B4B Initiative because of the promising outcomes it offers for youth and their families. As of February 2012, I was elected vice president of the B4B Initiative Advisory Board. The B4B Initiative Advisory Board comprises of community, children-service providers, family and youth advocates, OCFS alumni from across the city. The Advisory Board is charged with assisting and promoting the development of the B4B Initiative. I plan to utilize my role as Vice President of the Advisory Board to advocate for our Priority Agenda which is to promote self-advocacy and mentorship opportunities for youth.

Success in Albany
Outcomes of RAMP


It's official! 100% of the youth at YOUTH POWER!'s Albany County RAMP site successfully completed the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program between the months of October 2010 and September 2011. RAMP is a high tech, career focused mentoring program for young people ages 11 - 17 who have a disability and are involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. RAMP is funded by a grant from the US Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and led by the Institute for Educational Leadership. YP! coordinates the statewide implementation of RAMP in NYS. RAMP is being implemented at 13 sites across the country. The goal of RAMP is to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system by providing mentors and opportunities for young people to learn about careers they are interested in. In year 2, only 4% (the national average for year 2 was 8%) were re-arrested. This is a very positive number considering the difficult circumstances the majority of the participants live in.


As we are in our final year of this grant, YP! is actively exploring all possible avenues to keep a peer support program in the Capital District. In May 2011, RAMP was highlighted by the New York State Office of Mental Health for its innovation in promoting positive youth social-emotional development. If you are interested in learning more about RAMP, our have ideas for us as we move forward in looking for support, please contact Zach Garafalo, YP! Mentoring Coordinator at [email protected].


In Action!

by John Donnelly

For a long time The Action Workgroup struggled get going. With a boost to the leadership, the working group has been steadily growing.  The calls currently have the highest number of member attendance we have ever had and the numbers continue to grow.


At first look, the word "policy" can be scary to many people.  A lot of people think you need a college degree or even more education to understand it.  A lot of people think that it is too hard for them.  However, just like anything else it is not fair to judge a book by its cover.  Policy can be incredibly interesting, because it gives you the power to make a difference on a local, state-wide, or even national level.  It can be difficult, but it usually is not.  It can be boring to some people, but to others it is very exciting.  Just as anything else, to be good with policy takes practice.  Just as no person is born knowing how to play a musical instrument, people can develop skills with practice just like a professional musician.


The 2012 YOUTH POWER! Policy Agenda arose from the work of everybody, with the current Action Workgroup front and center in the whole process.  It is currently complete.  Is this where we stop?  No.  This is only the beginning.  Our plan is not just to put out an agenda, but to follow that agenda to get as much work done together as possible.


We have some people on our working group who are extremely experienced in regards to policy.  At the same time we have people that are beginners and are doing great at it.  We have members from the ages of 13 to 27 that live across the state, from Long Island to Buffalo.  We have members that are in junior high school all the way up to college graduates.  We are extremely diverse and we work hard together as a team.  We are also always looking for more members who want to be a part of us.  Since August of 2011, we have had the best combined leadership we have ever had and we're always looking to improve in that area too.  The best part of the Action Workgroup leadership?  Everyone in the working group is a leader, whether they are members, board members, or a YP! peer employee.


While the plans for the Action working group are always evolving, we are working hard on planning our next steps.  We know what needs to get done, now we are deciding how to do it.  We do not quit.  We support each other.  We are a team.


Would you like to be involved with the Action Work Group?  If you want to be a part of the Action Work Group, and you are a YP! member, you can contact John Donnelly, YOUTH POWER! Systems Advocate, at (518) 432 - 0333, extension 14 or [email protected] We would love to have you as part of the team.


Fellowship Opportunity in Washington DC

The HSC Foundation, in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), is now accepting applications for a paid fellowship position with the organizations' disability youth transition and collaboration work.   This fellowship is ideal for a person with a disability who has an interest in youth career transitions and employment solutions. The fellowship starts in April, 2012, and continues for 12 months. Under the supervision of AAPD's Director of Programs, the Youth Transitions Fellow (YTF) will gain exposure to youth programs serving people with disabilities and will have the opportunity to facilitate collaboration among internship, fellowship, and apprenticeship programs based in the Greater Washington, DC area.  

Preferred Skills and Qualifications:

  • Ability to facilitate collaboration among large groups
  • Ability to work with people in all levels of an organization, including young people with a variety of disabilities
  • Strong oral communication skills and strong organizational skills
  • Creative and innovative personality
  • Familiarity with technology and social networking tools
  • Strong interest in youth transition for people with disabilities and organizing.


  • Anyone who self-identifies as an individual with any type of disabilityis invited to apply.  You will not be required to disclose your specific disability; however, your application for this program will signify that you consider yourself a person with a disability.  PLEASE NOTE:  This fellowship is specifically for people with disabilities


YOUTH POWER! is the New York State network of young people who have been labeled and are seeking change.  Together, we have decided to speak up about our experiences because no one knows what it is like for us better than we do.  Through peer-to-peer mentoring, we empower young people to be active citizens who are aware of government operations, their rights and the ability to use their voices to influence policies, practices, regulations and laws.  We are young people helping other people, ensuring availability of self-help and peer support while changing systems so that young people get the support they need with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Nothing About Us Without Us!