Children and youth are raised in both traditional care settings as well as non-traditional care settings. Traditional care includes being raised by parents or extended family members. Non-traditional care includes any other care setting such as group homes, foster homes, residential treatment centers, and juvenile detention centers.
In the United States, there are increasing numbers of youth who are not fortunate enough to be served by the traditional social/educational system. As a result, alternative agencies and organizations exist to attempt to meet this population’s needs in non-traditional settings. Not surprisingly, youth who are raised in non-traditional care settings are significantly more likely to exhibit troubled behavior and rebel against formal structures, systems, and rules. More specifically, these troubled youth overwhelmingly fail to transition from dependent care facilities to responsible, independent living situations. Presently, a majority of non-traditional care services fall short of the long term needs of these troubled youth’s development continuum.
Most intervention programs focused on supporting troubled youth in the United States are either short-term, event-driven, or customized for traditional family members. Usually, these programming efforts fail non-traditional youth due to stronger competing influences in the community and individual environments. In local regions and municipalities, troubled youth are referred to alternative schools and residence treatment programs based on a lack of other placement or support options. These organizations provide housing, education, specialist coordination and follow up field support but do not have bandwidth for transitional programming. Youth participants in these programs suffer because they are not able to realize their educational and vocational potential to become independent and productive citizens. Programs that do exist for youth in non-traditional care are often limited based on funding and the complexity of their evolving care situations. In addition, society suffers by paying the price for this inefficiency in the form of continued tax burden for care, increased incidences of crime, and overall unproductive citizens.
What is needed to eradicate this negative phenomenon is a dedicated training institute and resource portal focused on the educational/vocational development and effective transition of youth from residential treatment to independent living. The aforementioned transition barriers require a longitudinal development program that 1) establishes relationships with troubled youth early in their adolescent development, 2) provides educational, social, and professional development experiences, and 3) guides the transition from teenage dependent care to adult independent living.