Youth Aid Panels
The Youth Aid Panel Program (YAP) is a diversion program designed to keep juveniles between the ages of 10-17 who have committed certain low-level, non-violent crimes out of the juvenile justice system, affording them a second chance. Successful completion of the YAP Program means that a juvenile will not have a record for that offense and will not have to go to District Court or Juvenile Court.
Successfully completing the YAP Program means the juvenile won’t have a criminal record that can be found through background checks routinely done by colleges and employers.
Juveniles who participate in the YAP Program are usually first-time offenders willing to take steps toward correcting their actions. YAP panels primarily handle cases that meet specific criteria:
- The juvenile committed an act that has violated Pennsylvania law or a local ordinance;
- The juvenile does not dispute the facts described in the allegation, citation, incident report, etc. If the juvenile intends to deny involvement in the incident or assert innocence or mitigating factors, participation in a Youth Aid Panel is not appropriate;
- There is an agreement between the arresting police department and the District Attorney’s Office that the juvenile will benefit from a settlement that does not involve the court system of Delaware County;
- The juvenile agrees to participate in the YAP Program.
Because YAP is a non-adversarial proceeding, an attorney may not represent the juvenile. Anything disclosed during the YAP proceedings about an offense – including admissions of guilt – cannot be used against the juvenile if the case is later returned to District Court or Juvenile Court.
Panel members represent a qualified group of a local community’s residents who serve as a counseling and advisory body for the individual cases brought before it. Members of YAP panels are volunteers, following a careful screening process by staff in the District Attorney’s Office. YAP members must complete YAP training, as well as Mandated Reporter training.
Referred to YAP: What to Expect
- The arresting police officer will speak with the parents/guardians and the juvenile about the YAP Program.
- The police department will send the juvenile’s YAP referral to the District Attorney’s Office for review and approval.
- If the case is deemed eligible for YAP, the case will be assigned to the Youth Aid Panel in the community where the offense occurred.
- In certain circumstances, additional resources from a non-profit social service agency may be provided to some juveniles to assist them with their involvement with the YAP Program.
- The parents/juvenile will be contacted by the Panel Chair to schedule the required full-Panel meeting, which both a parent or guardian and the juvenile will be required to attend.
- During the meeting with the YAP panel, the juvenile will be given an opportunity to explain the circumstances leading up to the offense. Based on the actions of the juvenile, the panel, the offender and his or her parents will work together to build a contract that calls for accountability to both the victim and the community, and repairs the damage done to the victim and meets the treatment needs of the juvenile. The contract will include a timeline for completion of the assigned tasks.
- Resolutions may include research on the crime committed with an essay explaining the impact, a letter of apology to the victim and the offender’s parents, community service, restitution, an alcohol awareness class, a retail theft class, a drug and alcohol evaluation or participation in appropriate counseling services. Panelists are encouraged to be creative and tailor the resolution to the offense and the juvenile.
- Once all assignments are completed, the juvenile and his/her parent or guardian will meet with the YAP panel for an exit interview before the case is closed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a cost for the juvenile to participate in the YAP Program?
There is no cost to the juvenile or families for participation in the YAP Program. Certain offenses may result in the requirement to pay restitution.
Do we have to appear in court before a judge?
No. Successful completion of the YAP Program eliminates the need to appear in Juvenile Court before a judge.
Does my child need a lawyer?
No, your child may not bring a lawyer to his/her hearing before the YAP panel. However, if the juvenile fails to successfully complete the program, the original criminal charges will be refiled and then you may want to consider retaining a lawyer.
What should my child say on a job (or college) application that asks if they have a criminal record?
If your child successfully completes the YAP Program, your child does not need to disclose on a job or college application that s/he went through YAP if the application asks about having a criminal record.
Will there be a public record of my child participating in YAP?
The YAP meetings are confidential, and there will not be a recording of the proceedings. The District Attorney’s Office does maintain records for who participates in the program and successfully completes the program; however, that information is not accessible to the general public.
YAP Volunteer Opportunities
We are currently seeking volunteers to serve as Youth Aid Panelists as we are expanding the number of panels in Delaware County. We are looking for adults of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities who live in Delaware County.
Apply if you:
- want to make a difference in your community…
- want to have a positive impact on the lives of youth…
- want to promote community protection and juvenile justice accountability…
- want to hold juveniles accountable for their actions while sending a message that they live in a community that cares.
Download an application here
For more information email Kelly Wilson at [email protected].