Description & History

Since 1992 Youth Advocacy Center’s mission has been to help teens and young adults involved with the foster care and juvenile justice systems learn to advocate for themselves and take control of their lives. Youth Advocacy Center was founded on the belief that these youths have the desire, talents and potential to become participating citizens – to hold jobs, pursue education, play a role in their community, live in safe neighborhoods and raise their children to be educated and healthy. We help them transition to successful adulthood and independence. We entered this work because as lawyers in family court, we saw first-hand the dismal outcomes for youth leaving the foster care and juvenile justice systems. The millions of dollars of services available failed to address teens’ own desires for a better future. We founded Youth Advocacy Center because we believed in the potential of all young people to succeed and believed that the community could play a role in supporting their success. Our philosophy and work tap into existing, under-utilized resources, which include: - every youth, who has the potential and practical life experiences to be a participating citizen: a critical thinker who takes responsibility for achieving his or her goals and negotiating situations as a successful young adult - every professional who works at a government or private institution interacting with youth, who has the potential to use his or her own experience, creativity and skills to raise expectations and improve outcomes for youth - leaders in the community, who have the potential and desire to give opportunities to youth through sharing their experiences and targeted education and career advice with youth to motivate them to achieve their goals. Youth Advocacy Center unites these untapped resources through Getting Beyond the System® (GBS) to effect change for individuals and for communities. The Getting Beyond the System® Self-Advocacy Seminar models our overall philosophy that we can empower young people intellectually and transfer responsibility to them as they transition from government systems to independence. The GBS Seminar brings together a class of approximately 10 students, ages 16-21, in a campus setting, over a 12-week semester to study ‘self-advocacy:’ setting short and long-term goals, depersonalizing issues, understanding others’ needs, presenting one’s strengths and more. The final project for every student is an informational interview with a high-level professional in the career field of the young person’s choice—whether this is a professional athlete, health care worker, media executive, educator, artist, mechanic, etc. The young people have the opportunity to gain concrete education and career advice from the community and begin the process of building a network for the future. Outcomes for young people include pursuing education, internships and mentoring relationships, as well as improved critical thinking, decision making and self-advocacy skills. The curriculum for the GBS Seminar, On Your Own as a Young Adult, has been published nationally. Youth Advocacy Center is recognized as a leading social entrepreneur and has attracted support from the Open Society Institute, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and dozens of New York-based and other funders. YAC works with many leaders in the private sector who provide significant resources. We published a book about our philosophy and approach, Beyond the Foster Care System, which Marian Wright Edelman endorsed as “a powerful tool to help youths move to fully engaged lives in our society.”

About the organization

Youth Advocacy Center

Susan Ross
Program Coordinator
212-675-6181 ext: 201
Ann Shalof
Associate Director
212-675-6181 ext: 207
Organization’s website: