Since its inception, National Youth Advocate Program has been reflective of the character and vision of Dr. Mubarak Awad, founder of NYAP and former president, which has been shaped and crafted in response to his personal experiences. The organizational history of the effort traces to Ohio where in response to that need, Dr. Awad created the Ohio Youth Advocate Program with direct encouragement from the Ohio Youth Commission (now the Department of Youth Services), the state agency charged with finding placements for delinquent youth referred to the state from county juvenile court judges.
In 1978, the state of Ohio ranked number one in the nation in the number of youth under eighteen years of age held in secure facilities with Georgia and California a close second and third. There was a tremendous need for alternative community services and after-care placements for youth released from institutions was perceived by all involved.
Dr. Awad has firsthand knowledge about institutional care. His mother had been forced to place him and his siblings in orphanages in Jerusalem after their father was killed in the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. Moreover, as a youth, Dr. Awad acted out in school and the orphanage, and in another setting might have found himself in a juvenile court system.
Later, at Ohio's Bluffton College, Dr. Awad studied social work and sociology. Initially, he believed in the value of group therapy and rehabilitation for troubled youth. He came to understand, however, that even if youth were successful in a group home or institution (and many were not), they still had to deal with an outside world including family and community. Dr. Awad decided that a better environment for changing behavior and one that had a greater chance of lasting over the long term was a family setting in a community. He strongly believes that youth need to be surrounded by positive role models - yet another reason for removing them from group homes or institutions, where the peer group was made up of other troubled and needy individuals.