The Youth Advisory Network (YAN) is a multifaceted approach to youth advocacy and leadership in the State of New Jersey. The YAN regional chapters, in partnership with Office of Adolescent Services (OAS) providers, are working together to ensure that youth with experience in the child welfare system and/or with homelessness have an opportunity to provide feedback on issues impacting them and develop leadership and advocacy skills.

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) and its provider agencies are working together to design, build, evaluate and strengthen a process for improving young people’s participation and leadership development system-wide.

DCF provider agencies and their staff will be trained by the YAN regional leads in youth leadership and advocacy development, as well as youth participation concepts and strategies. This training is intended to help program staff develop opportunities for young people to gain leadership skills and participate in decision-making processes.

Young people served by DCF and provider agencies will have opportunities to provide feedback and input on issues that are important to them. Youth will also be able to participate in shared learning opportunities at regional quarterly meetings and the annual YAN Statewide Day of Action. These events will allow young people to meet with provider staff and DCF leadership to discuss important issues, provide feedback on their experiences and share their opinions.

Young people in New Jersey who are receiving services from any Office of Adolescent Services contracted provider agency are automatically part of the Youth Advisory Network.  This includes life skills, housing, mentoring, permanency, aftercare, PACES and other programs.  Youth will be notified of YAN activities by their program staff.

Much of YAN’s work occurs day to day when youth are participating in their programs. Program staff will be trained to help strengthen the leadership and advocacy skills of youth through various activities and learning opportunities.  Youth will also have opportunities to serve as leaders in their programs and communities.

During the YAN Quarterly Meetings, the provider agency staff and youth will get together to network with each other, identify issues, brainstorm solutions to challenges and provide feedback to DCF.

There are four YAN regions that cover the State of New Jersey.

  • Region 1: Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), covering Bergen, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren Counties. Region 1 Coordinators are Elian Mustafa emustafa@yapinc.org and Marissa Ventola mventola@yapinc.org.
  • Region 2: Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), covering Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, and Somerset Counties. Region 2 Coordinators are Melissa Ortiz mortiz@yapinc.org and Stephanie Guzman sguzman@yapinc.org.
  • Region 3: Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (YAP), covering Essex and Union Counties. Region 3 Coordinators are Alicia Rodriguez alrodriguez@yapinc.org and Curtis Moore cjmoore@yapinc.org.
  • Region 4: Robins’ Nest, covering Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties. Region 4 Coordinator is Caroline May cmay@robinsnestinc.org.

If you are a youth looking to join the Youth Advisory Network, there is nothing you have to do! You are automatically enrolled and part of the network if you are receiving adolescent services (mentoring, life skills, aftercare, transitional/permanent housing programs, expected/parenting youth programs or PACES) through the Office of Adolescent Services. Ask a staff member at your program about YAN to learn about youth advocacy and leadership development! Still have questions? Contact the YAN Program Lead at the Office of Adolescent Services, Emel Altomari at emel.altomari@dcf.nj.gov or 609-888-7592.

If you are a CP&P worker looking to get your youth involved in the Youth Advisory Network, there is no need for any referrals! If your youth is receiving adolescent services (mentoring, life skills, aftercare, transitional/permanent housing programs, expected/parenting youth programs or PACES) through the Office of Adolescent Services, then he/she is already part of the network and can take part in the youth skill development, as well as attend quarterly meetings in his/her region. Still have questions? Contact the YAN Program Lead at the Office of Adolescent Services, Emel Altomari at emel.altomari@dcf.nj.govor 609-888-7592.