On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations

On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations

On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations

On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations

Synopsis

In the decade after high school, young people continue to rely on their families in many ways-sometimes for financial support, sometimes for help with childcare, and sometimes for continued shelter. But what about those young people who confront special difficulties during this period, many of whom can count on little help from their families?

On Your Own Without a Net documents the special challenges facing seven vulnerable populations during the transition to adulthood: former foster care youth, youth formerly involved in the juvenile justice system, youth in the criminal justice system, runaway and homeless youth, former special education students, young people in the mental health system, and youth with physical disabilities. During adolescence, government programs have been a major part of their lives, yet eligibility for most programs typically ends between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. This critical volume shows the unfortunate repercussions of this termination of support and points out the issues that must be addressed to improve these young people's chances of becoming successful adults.

Excerpt

Michael S. Wald

There are currently twenty-four million twelve- to seventeen-year-olds in the United States. By the time they reach age twenty-five, the great majority of these youth will have made at least a minimally successful transition into early adulthood; they will have acquired the skills needed to connect with the labor force on a regular basis, and they will have established positive social support systems.

However, based on past trends, it is likely that at least a million and a half of these youth, from 5 to 7 percent, will reach age twenty-five without having successfully transitioned to independent adulthood. At an age when most young adults are benefiting from full-time work and close interpersonal relationships, these youth will not have connected to the labor force, and many will lack positive social support systems. About 60 percent will be men. of these, over half will be in prison, while the remaining men will be mired in protracted spells of long-term unemployment. By age twenty-five, nearly all of these young women will have started families. Most of these young mothers, however, will face the daunting challenge of raising their children alone and with little income or with the help of their own impoverished families.

There are compelling reasons to decrease the number of youth who will not make a successful transition. Helping them become productive and emotionally stable would produce enormous social benefit. They now contribute little to the economy. Rather, as a group, they impose significant social costs, including criminal activity and the use of very expensive services. Most of the women face the challenge of raising children on their own; many have difficulty providing adequate care. Their children experience numerous problems and are at increased risk of placement in foster care.

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