Dana M. LaCoss is committed to carrying out the responsibilities of her job to the fullest extent.

She serves as executive director of the St. Lawrence County Youth Advocate Programs Inc., part of a national organization founded more than 40 years ago. The local group marked its 20th anniversary June 26 with a celebration at its new office at 3 Remington Ave. in Canton, which has been open for about 10 months.

YAP is “exclusively committed to the provision of community-based alternatives to out-of-home care through direct service, advocacy and policy change,” according to information on its website. Its mission “is to provide individuals who are, have been or may be subject to compulsory care with the opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued as assets so that communities have safe, proven effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement.”

“Since our founding in 1975, our expertise and passion have been in serving deep-end, multi-need and cross-system youth and families, though we have success across a continuum of needs and challenges,” according to the YAP website. “We provide safe, cost-effective services to youth and families involved in numerous systems, including the child welfare, juvenile justice, behavioral health, developmental disabilities, education and adult systems.”

Ms. LaCoss closely identifies with the people served by the local group.

“We were poor; I had an abusive mom’s boyfriend in the home. So to me, I see these families and what they’re going through and I relate,” she said in a story published June 27 in the Watertown Daily Times. “I know I would have wanted to be with my family. Not in foster care, not in a residential setting. So for me, it’s great to be able to help these families stay together in the community.”

It’s great to see those associated with YAP celebrate this landmark anniversary of the St. Lawrence County group. They have made a real difference in the lives of many residents.

“They are playing a huge role in reducing trauma that is taking place in families and making it possible for people to live lives that are … productive, meaningful, flourishing lives,” St. Lawrence County Social Services Commissioner Christopher R. Rediehs said in the story. “Every family goes through struggles and has challenges. And to be able to participate in ways where families are struggling, it really makes a positive difference and it’s something they do year-in and day-out, 24 hours a day. We think the world of them.”

Deputy Commissioner Heather L. Wenzel echoed these sentiments.

“It takes a community. The issues that they are facing are not just probation’s issues or DSS’s issues, they are community issues and it really takes a community to address them,” she said in the story. “They devote so much time to individual families. You can feel it today. They are here for families. Not every organization can you walk into and the mission is right there in front of you, but you know when you come here and you talk to their staff, they want families to be together and they are really dedicated to the work that they are doing.”

Some of the families who have benefited from YAP’s involvement attended the June 26 event and told their stories. This is a real testament to an organization that carries out vital work under difficult circumstances and has produced results. Congratulations to members of this group for doing its part to hold families — and, thus, our society — together.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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