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Transition to adulthood?

2012

I am a year two student in the Child and Youth Care Program at Red River College. I was wondering if anyone would like to share their opinion about youth transitioning into adulthood and what staff can do to better prepare them for the transition. If anyone has any ideas or personal stories they would like to share, it would be much appreciated.

Corinna Hildebrand
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Read the book Reclaiming youth at risk: our hope for the future [Book] by Larry K. Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, Steve Van Bockern. 
 
Kim Ducharme
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The transitions of youth to adulthood from my personal experience involves a lot of challenges that children goes through. But to understand them in to support them better, differ from each child and that makes it more complicated for we practitioners meet their needs easily. However, change is always possible when exercise more patience on them.
 
Francis
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In nearly every life activity we are a part of in a young person's life, there must be - whether stated or implied - the concept that "over time this choice/decision/action/etc is going to be more and more up to you". I am convinced that this should be a part of the adult child relationship even in early stages and with young children. We can't wait until a youth is nearly transitioning and then think we can change the way he looks at and experiences the world.
 
James Freeman
Southern California USA
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Hi Corinna,
 
 
I wrote my final MA paper on this topic. I would be more then happy to share it with you or anyone else that would like to read it. What I did in my paper was look at many of the issues facing these youth, and how the Greater Toronto Area CASs meet the needs of the youth transitioning from their care. I compared it to several programs in the USA. This is one area I am very passionate about and would love to work in again, but as there are few resources there are not many jobs in this area either.

I truly feel we never do enough for the youth leaving our care.
 
All the best,
Tabitha Woodall
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I think what I wanted to write here is in response to both Corinna Hildebrand's and Kim Ducharme's contributions to our discussions. I thought they both related to adolescence. Please forgive me if in making this interpretation I have wandered off on a tangent.
 
First of all let me say that I believe adolescence is a developmental stage for both the young person and the parenting adult. I believe child and youth care workers should bear this in mind, notwithstanding the exceptional circumstances of the young people we work with - those  young people who in childhood have missed so much.
 
Let's get down to some matters about adolescence. D.W. Winnicott suggested that aggression is  a necessary characteristic of the  adolescent. He proposed that the adolescent has a fantasy that he or she can only become an adult  "over the dead body of an adult,"  which he thought, meant, "that somewhere in the background there is a life and death struggle". 
 
Another important contribution from Winnicott is his notion that what is important about the adolescent process will be lost if there is not a confrontation between the adolescent and the parenting figures in relation to this struggle.  If  positive development is to be made the adolescent cannot be allowed to evade the resolutions. He  has "to feel real or to tolerate not feeling  at all". The adolescent  should be given space to express defiance in a setting in which his or her dependence can be consistently met.  According to Winnicott it is vital for the parenting figure to permit the adolescent to be immature, even if this is not apparent to the adolescent.  "Immaturity is an essential element of the health at adolescence...in this is constrained the most exciting features of creative thought, new and fresh feeling, ideas for new living" (Winnicott1971 p45).

What Winnicott was bringing to light is that both generations go through the "adolescence" process. It is a uniquely new situation for both, and both have a positive role to play in it. To grow, a young person  strives consciously and unconsciously for an adult identity, but this  individual process is also important  for society if it is to be dynamic rather than static. The vital parenting role is to contain this energy so that it does not become destructive. For Winnicott, adults who recoil in the face of this energy may channel the adolescent towards premature and false adulthood.
 
In essence Winnicott's position allows the youth care worker to value without incongruity, and to give herself space for, her reflective objective professional role  and her adult parenting identity.  Just as it is vital for the worker to recognise an anti-social response as a consequence of disturbed emotional development, so it is important to recognise those healthy areas of the inter-generational conflict and to react and act accordingly.  The relationship between the young person and an adult is complex. An adolescent provokes feelings in an adult of envy as well as disapproval. Yet a youngster is dependent on adults about whom he or she has powerful ambivalent feelings and so it is important that adults rather than act out the resentments which envy can bring about,  celebrate and enjoy the creativity of a new generation.
 
Now Erik  Erikson  - whose works I think every child and youth care worker should study  -  understood adolescence as an period of seeking for adult identity. He  argued that in their search for a new sense of continuity and sameness which given their age now includes sexual maturity, some adolescents have to confront again the crises of early childhood, and for all there is a need for a "moratorium  for the integration of the identity elements ..only that now a larger unit, vague in its outline and yet immediate in its demands, replaces the childhood milieu -  ' society' " (Erikson, 1968, p128).

The identity elements which Erikson defined are also a catalogue of adolescent problems. They include the adolescent's need for human beings and ideas to have faith in; the need to be defined by what he or she can will freely;  the fear of participation in unavoidable responsibilities which might expose him or her to ridicule and doubt; a willingness to place trust in peers; leading as well as misleading elders who might give imaginative scope to his aspirations,  while objecting violently to what are perceived as pedantic limitations on his self-image.  Erikson suggested that adolescence is least tempestuous for the adolescent who is well prepared for the  prevailing cultural ideology, and for Erikson this is technological and economic. Erikson believed that it is the ideological potential of a society which most powerfully influences the adolescent as he seeks the affirmation of his peers and  favoured elders  and aspires to do what he feels is worthwhile in life. For the adolescent not so prepared for this - and these are the ones we work with -  the environment appears vigorous in barring all the forms of expression which allow him or her to  develop and integrate to the next step and he may resist his environment with equal ferocity  (Erikson 1968).
 
I hope my rather pedantic expression may in some way be helpful.
best wishes,
 
Charles Sharpe 

Suggested readings
Erikson E.H.(1950) Childhood and Society. New York. W.W.Norton
Erikson, E.H.  (1968) Identity, Youth and Crisis.  London.  Faber. 1968
Winnicott, D.W. (1971) Playing and Reality. London. Routledge.
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Hi Corinna,
 
Please find attached a 1965 paper written by Dr. Henry Maier on what he calls , "Adolescenthood".

http://www.cyc-net.org/pdf/maier-adolescenthood.pdf
 
Ernie Hilton
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Don't (assist youth transition into adulthood!). Instead assist yourself and the youth you encounter in transitioning into a developmental status of constant creative becoming that blows the categories of adult and youth into smithereens. Being a youth is an impossible social position and becoming an adult is an enslavement I wouldn't wish on anyone. Seek a new and constantly mutating form of life, a new world, a new people!
 
Hans Skott-Myhre
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Hi,
 
Regarding the discussed topic of transition I agree 100%! We (placing agencies/local authorities included) must take a more pro-active attitude in looking at this area. It is undoubtedly becoming more evident that young people are leaving the residential environment without adequate skills to cope with life as a young adult. The organisation I practice within in Scotland are making great efforts to address this issue, however, in my experience placing agencies (local authorities) do not appear to see this crucial period (predominantly in adolescence) as a priority; with outcomes extremely poor and ultimately individuals' needs  not met post residential placement - despite the case teams working closest with that individual raising this at a much earlier stage.
 
The sector appears to be driving towards the tick box 'outcomes' and whether these areas (in line with the GIRFEC model) are being evidenced on paper. More importantly I feel local authorities are  uninterested in whether at a practical level these outcomes are being met and the focus is in actual fact on whether 'the box' is ticked or not.
 
Practitioners, sector wide, must be reminded of the basic rationale for choosing this. career path - to help young people who desperately need it, to show them the way...and ultimately prepare them for independence. Thoughts welcome...
 
Andy Naylor.
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Corinna,
I'm so glad to hear your question!  So often, for young people who are in our systems of care, this transition to adulthood does not come up until a young person is fast approaching their 18th birthday. I feel by then we have wasted so many earlier opportunities that could have been used to teach, support, and prepare the young person for a more successful "launching."  I ran your question by several people I work with at the National Resource Center for Youth Services, a few have some personal experiences with transitioning out of care in the US. Below is one story:
 
The transition period for young adults in foster care is treated like a day, in most cases their 18 birthday. In some states now due to recent law changes it is 19, 20 and if you are very lucky. When I say it is a day, I do not mean that as a celebration it is often a check list, deadline date, and to the youth themselves a time filled with unanswered questions.
 
The best thing staff can do is treat the transition time as a process and prep time for time when a young person begins to take charge and enter the driver's seat of their decision making process in their case plans, meetings and any time adults and workers are talking about their plans, a young person should be engaged and leading (or co-leading) these meetings.
 
Often times a young person starts the focused future planning work too late.

Share with young people documents and tools like the Transition toolkit so they can start thinking about their vision for their future and get them working out the answers to the questions they have for the adults assigned to their case and ones around them who can help pass on wisdom before they end up learning through mistakes (which statistics say, many of peers learn too often through mistakes) when they don't have support around them.
 
In preparation for losing all of the assigned folks in their life I would also encourage getting young people thinking about the folks in their life outside of foster care. Their community friends, leaders, church folks or friends through work and every day activities and how these folks can play as connections for them while they are on their own. Example tool for them to think about to approach people about this is the Permanency Pact, I more or less used this to frame conversations with adults that I felt supported me and I wanted to be able to continue my relationships with them.
 
Next step is personal development and here are some tools I think can help young people to feel like they are capable of taking charge of when to talk about their foster care situation and when not to and how to get involved in leadership work.
 
Finally it is important to know that you are not alone in having questions, feeling alone and anxious about what is going to happen when you venture out on your own. I encourage young people to connect to their community, family members (if they age out with some), connect to friends and positive circles that are motivating and meaningful. I have done this in a few ways.
Foster Care Communities:
Foster Club
Foster Care Alumni of America
Foster Care specific publications: Youth Port, CASA...
Non Foster Care Communities:
Church
Sorority
Cultural
Internships
Sports and Hobbies

Best wishes on your adventure to adulthood, it's an exciting one and like any adventure filled with twist turns. Remember to celebrate the good moment and to learn and adjust from those moments that didn't go as planned!

Sincerely,
An older alumni who transitioned out of the foster care system and I am proud of that!J
 
Jean Carpenter-Williams
Oklahoma
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Hi All!
 
I would recommend looking at a special issue of the Journal of Child and Youth Care Work , Volume 23, 2010. Another special journal dedicated to articles on transitions out of care is New Directions in Youth Development, #113, 2007.
 
Varda Mann-Feder
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