Writer / Janelle Morrison Photo / JJ Kaplan
Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) was formed in Fall 2015 to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. Like other peer Youth Assistance Programs throughout Hamilton County, local volunteers develop and provide access to programs and services that promote positive growth experiences and enhance home and community relationships. CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, city of Carmel, and the Hamilton County Superior Court. CYAP is one of six offices serving students and their families in the county.
Melanie Lentz from the Community Relations Department spoke about the city’s support of CYAP and collaboration in organizing the City of Carmel Gala. “The city has a vested interest in the organization,” Lentz said. “Other programs in the county have a ‘mayor’s ball’ or some sort of annual fundraiser. After discussion, the decision was made that the Carmel Gala would benefit the CYAP and its programs while incorporating the arts and things that benefit our community’s youth. The theme for the inaugural gala is Designing Bright Futures, and that is our focus. Our goal is that the Carmel Gala will be the CYAP’s largest annual fundraiser going forward.”
CYAP Board President Guenter Haines discussed what the organization’s goals are for 2017 and beyond. “The whole strategy around the gala besides its principal fund-raising mechanism, is creating a celebration of our city and what we’re about with the main focus being on our community’s children,” Haines said. “What we want to see is a perfect balance of people who just want to have a wonderful night out while celebrating a wonderful cause. It also allows the opportunity for us to potentially recruit members of our community as volunteers or mentors, as well as engaging corporate partners in perpetuity for this wonderful not-for-profit.”
Haines explained that the reason why the youth assistance programs work is because the programs are hyperlocal and that the CYAP is a franchise of a great concept that was started in Hamilton County. The Early Intervention Advocates in each community work under the appointment of Judge Paul Felix, Hamilton County Circuit Court and Judge Steven Nation, Hamilton County Superior Court 1.
“When you have a community 85,000 people and with that, mental health issues that cross the boundaries of socioeconomic status, that in and of itself is a challenge,” Haines said. “Many of us are one job or major health issue from being in crisis and needing the services that CYAP provides. We all likely know somebody in that situation. The children are the first in the family that typically manifest the challenges of the family and the teachers are usually the first people to see that. Our purpose is to be proactive rather than reactive. By the time the children get into the probate system, many times it is too late.”
According to Haines, the board will be able to focus on creating a “war chest” of funding from the proceeds of the gala. Along with the grants from the city and county, the funds will enable the CYAP to expediently assist children and increase their staff and programs to stay ahead of the unbelievable demand that exists in the community. The CYAP will also continue to create opportunities for the local youth to assist their peers through peer tutoring initiatives and fundraising opportunities. The concept is to raise awareness and empower the children to help their peers while building their own self-worth.
Maggie Figge, early intervention advocate for CYAP, was a social worker at Creekside Middle School for six years prior to joining CYAP. Her familiarity with the school principals, guidance counselors, and teachers has benefited her advocacy efforts as she met with every school in the Carmel Clay Schools system to educate them about CYAP’s role and purpose.
“CYAP would not be running without the partnership between the city and the school system,” Figge emphasized. “One thing that I stress to the schools when I go and speak with them is not to wait. Don’t wait until the wheels completely fall off the bus. At the first sign of difficulty, whether it’s an academic or behavior shift, get the child involved so that we can get the resources that they need and stabilize that child and family before they’re on a completely different trajectory,” she said.
The CYAP program accepts children between 3 to 17 years old. Figge has 3 and 4-year olds currently in her case load. “It is important to get involved when the children are young,” she said. “They are still malleable and resilient at those younger ages. I believe that our message of early intervention is being heard because the majority of my cases are elementary-aged students.”
Every teacher, guidance counselor, first responder, etc., has access to their own confidential login and ID to the CYAP website where they can enter a child and begin the process of receiving assistance for the child. Figge can then engage and reach out to the family in a non-threatening scenario because she is not from the state or county, and the parents feel at ease speaking with her.
Figge shared a recent success story with a local child who is currently living with a foster family in Carmel. “This particular child is a great kid,” Figge said. “Unfortunately, he has a really dramatic background, and so the foster family, who went through foster parent training, recognized that he was manifesting behavioral issues and got connected with me quickly. CYAP paid for the musical instrument rental fee for the family because the child was interested in band and music. It is now his favorite class and he has made like-minded friends in his band class. Now he is willing to go to school every day and he is developing confidence. There just isn’t a way to measure the value of that.”
For more information on the CYAP, or to contact Maggie Figge, Early Intervention Advocate, Carmel: email@example.com
firstname.lastname@example.org (317) 501-1739
(317) 571-4005 Ext. 2664
www.Youthassistance.org and click on the Carmel tab.
To purchase tickets to the inaugural Carmel Gala visit www.carmelgala.org