Transitioning into Adulthood: Promoting Youth Engagement, Empowerment, and Interdependence Through Teaming Practices
The conventional models used for preparing youth for emancipation from child welfare emphasize independent living services in which youths learn how to find an apartment, apply for jobs or college, and manage money and budget for household expenses. Yet the focus on “independence” for youth leaving the child welfare system does not fit with the developmental tasks of adolescence. A more fitting goal for youth would be “interdependence,” as most young people do not achieve instant independence, but gradually take on the roles of an adult as they navigate through their twenties. During this period they require considerable emotional and practical support from families. Youth become independent and exercise autonomy within these supportive and empowering relationships.
Youth who come into care when they are older may return home, whereas those who enter at younger ages and experience multiple placements may lose contact with extended family and not form a consistent relationship with helping caregiver(s). Youth who are supported into young adulthood by birth or adoptive families or an extended period of assistance from foster parents fare better than youth who do not have these supports. Interventions that engage youth in progressively deepening responsibility for their own destiny, while simultaneously strengthening the support network so critical to successful interdependence beyond foster care, recognize that these youth are not all the same and that “one size does not fit all.” Teaming practices that respect youth voices, promote emerging autonomy, and engage a broad support system represent a needed step beyond life skills curricula that focus on the youth in isolation. They offer a variety of options to agencies working with complex families by building secure interdependence for the youth in their care and can be used as a time-limited decision-making intervention as well as a more comprehensive framework for providing ongoing services.
KeywordsTransition Teaming and Conferencing Interdependence Youth Engagement and Empowerment
Special thanks to the following individuals: The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center team of Wendy Unger, Christina Fatzinger, Cynthia Gore, and Justin Lee, who assisted with the FGDM section; Suzanne Barnard of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, who provided assistance with the TDM portion of this chapter; and Lauren Frey, who assisted with the LFC sections.
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