Transition Age Youth: Skills for Life

by
Danielle Martinez, LMFT
September, 11, 2019 -

The increasing focus on transition age youth (TAY), ages 16–24, is important and necessary. TAY are navigating the developmental years of growing out of childhood and into adulthood. Brain development in TAY is incomplete, leading to limitations in decision making, impulsivity, risk taking, and emotion regulation. These years are important for individuation and development of an autonomous self. These are individuals on whom we should all be focused to be able to provide support, care, and direction as they navigate early adulthood. 

No two stories are the same, and we know that youth in foster care often have endured so much early in life. The Family Care Network (FCN) takes pride in meeting these youth where they are and working with them to uncover passions they didn’t know they had and to identify and pursue goals in meaningful and honorable ways. FCN is ready and willing to offer support, and we know that it takes a collaborative effort of various county agencies, community foundations, service groups, and private donors to make it happen.

It is enlightening to work with these youth who want to ensure a positive future for themselves. Those we serve are inquisitive, courageous, vulnerable, brave, and genuinely dedicated to not only themselves but also the community that is helping to support them. They crave support and guidance, and although they sometimes experience a stumble along the way, they are resilient and motivated to help themselves and often each other. 

FCN understands the importance of assisting during this transition period and therefore works to provide safe, local, and affordable housing. With three Transitional Housing Placement programs, FCN helps those in care develop the life skills necessary to become self-sufficient and helps youth develop a community-based support system to maintain them in their community and avoid homelessness or incarceration post care. 

Transitional Housing Placement Programs 

Transitional Housing Placement Program for Minor Foster Children (THPP-M) is a structured, intensive program for foster youth ages 16–17 who are preparing to leave the foster care system. This program helps youth find independent housing and provides substantial one-on-one rehabilitation and case management, support, instruction, and guidance.

Transitional Housing Placement Program for Non-Minor Dependents (THPP-NMD) is a placement option for foster youth ages 18–21 who are provided affordable housing and a wide range of supportive services, including one-on-one life skills development and case management support, in order to successfully establish permanency and self-sufficiency. 

Transitional Housing Placement Plus Program (THP+) is a supportive housing program for transition age youth, ages 18–24, who are not in foster care. Participants are provided with affordable housing, case management, and one-on-one life skill development assistance.

These programs have the following goals: 

     1.  Assist transition age youth (TAY) in securing appropriate housing

     2.  Improve TAY's ability to secure and maintain meaningful employment

     3.  Promote educational achievement, advancement, and/or vocational training

     4.  Assist TAY in gaining the skills to access critical community services and establish essential

          community connections for meeting personal needs

     5.  Assist TAY in gaining necessary life skills to successfully live independently

Our programs also use the Skills for Life book developed and published by FCN, which is incorporated into every youth’s monthly case plan. This book is used as a workbook and support for learning and developing specific life skills that youth need to incorporate into their lives.

Each client served in Transitional Housing is also provided an opportunity to receive mental health services through FCN or, in some circumstances, the county, both of which provide intensive care coordination and individual rehabilitation support and are linked with additional community resources—for example, drug and alcohol services, commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) support groups, parenting classes/support, public health, medical providers, and the like.

Since the implementation of Housing Support Services, FCN has housed more than 1,200 youth between the ages of 16 and 24, and our programs have success rates of 90% (THPP-M), 90% (THPP-NMD), and 95% (THP+). 

In addition to Housing Support Services, FCN offers Education Support Services. The purposes of these services are to improve academic attendance, performance, and stability and to enhance each youth’s ability to lead a healthy and well-adjusted lifestyle. The programs also aim to help youth develop attainable goals for their future and to help them develop the skills necessary to reach their goals. 

Education Support Services Programs 

The Independent Living Program (ILP) began in 2011 and empowers former and current foster youth through education, life skills training, advocacy, workforce development, and community collaboration to become self-sufficient and to secure permanency in all aspects of their lives. This FCN program is unique in that it uses a four-pronged approach: 

     1.  Working with youth individually through assessment, skill development training, counseling, coaching, and

           individual learning activities 

     2.  Working with groups of youth through life skill development classes and activities 

     3.  Working with caregivers and staff to enhance their ability to assist youth in developing skills 

     4.  Brokering services and creating community linkages, such as job development resources, community college

           participation, mentor recruitment, finding locations for job shadowing, and the like 

Our service delivery model is based on Youth Development Strategies, empowering youth and shifting dependency on the “system” to self-sufficiency and community connectivity. Our ILP programs have served more than 5,000 foster youth, with an overall success rate of 95%.

Transitional Age Youth Financial Assistance Program (TAY-FAP) provides financial assistance to any ILP-eligible foster or former foster youth. The special emphasis of the program is on enhancing enrollment in higher education or vocational training so that youth served become self-sufficient. The TAY-FAP has served 265 youth, with an overall success rate of 85%. 

The Youth Employability Program (YEP) began in 2015 and works to connect foster youth ages 16–18 with career mentors, community resources, and workshop trainings to develop strong career goals and paths.

Youth Perspectives 

“TAY Housing provided me an opportunity to live independently with the support of my team who were always eager to teach me new life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and maintaining employment. My team encouraged me to find my passion and never lose sight of my personal goals. ILP supported me with bus passes until I was able to get my driver’s license and eventually my own car. TAY-FAP supported me financially, supporting some of my college education. I will forever be grateful for FCN.”

“I owe so much to my TAY housing case manager and ILP worker. They both supported me at every team meeting and met with me regularly to help me in achieving my goals. I have never met two more caring or supportive people in my life and hope that I can show them that all of the things I was taught are being used today and will be for the rest of my life.”

“I struggled in TAY housing with following program rules and it took me participating in the program three times. My team was so supportive in helping me to stay on track and get back on track when I was making poor choices. My team stood by me every step of the way, were patient and understanding, and supported me with connecting me with community resources to help with my marijuana use. I am now living on my own, am participating in Drug and Alcohol services, have a full-time job, and am doing great!”

Conclusion

The young adults we serve are an inspiration to us all, and each is individually celebrated and acknowledged monthly during Child and Family Team (CFT) meetings. We often hear about the “success” stories of TAY participants, but it's important that we acknowledge that sometimes a youth needs several tries in a TAY housing program to finally succeed and complete goals. Working together and supporting these young adults in making difficult life decisions is part of the process. Having patience and understanding and allowing each individual’s personal journey to unfold is both powerful and beautiful. 

FCN’s programs are designed to support and not enable, to develop real-life skills and critical thinking, and to prepare youth for change, all of which are important life lessons. The summer months are often a time when our foster youth make significant life changes and are off to new places and experiences. So, I encourage each of you to be a champion and do what you can to develop strong, independent, well-equipped, resilient individuals who are motivated and excited about their bright futures. 

 

Danielle Martinez, LMFT, is the Foster Care Services Manager at Family Care Network.