Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Blog Series!

November is YOUTH HOMELESSNESS AWARENESS MONTH! In honor of this occurrence, DCAYA is lucky enough to have a string of guest bloggers from our membership to report on the many different facets of youth homelessness that exist in the District.

This week Covenant House's own Dan Brannen shares his opinion on the importance of investing in young people's transition into adulthood. Special thanks to Dan for guest blogging!

Transition to Adulthood

Transition: the passage of one form, state, style or place to another.

No other time in life is as tumultuous or life-defining as our transition into adulthood. The facts are clear. Neurologists now know that the brain is in its final transformation from age 18-25. Psychologists and sociologists know that our ability to relate to each other and the world around us is put to the test during this epic stage of our life. Finally, in today’s economic climate, it does not take an economist to posit that it is not until we have delved into the ‘world of work’ for several years and enhanced our intellectual acumen (through some form of advanced, post-secondary education and training) that we will really be competitive in today’s marketplace. Furthermore, most Americans aren’t living “independently” (clearly not financially) until around the age of 25. Healthy, well-educated young people coming from nurturing families often don’t live on their own until their mid-20s and yet we expect young people who have encountered incredible barriers, often from their earliest stages of development to go it alone the day they hit 18. In the midst of Homeless Youth Awareness month (November), I would like to call attention to the need to better invest in young people throughout their transition into adulthood, which extends long after age 18.

Those of us who have spent our adult lives serving young people, know that it is, indeed, a marathon of service that we have embarked upon. Young people from all walks of life need support throughout their transition into adulthood, but children and youth who have spent their early formative years without necessary services and supports are especially needing of investment when it comes to their transition to life as an adult.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us at a fork in the road. Do we as a society, of individuals, communities, institutions and political parties, invest in our young people in a continuous, comprehensive manner despite hitting the magical age of 18 ?Or, do we turn the blind eye and pretend that these young people are somehow become prepared for the rigors of adult life absent the necessary supports and services?

I began this discourse with a definition of transition. Why? For us folks in the youth/young adult world, transition doesn’t mean short-term, or not permanent (such as a term like transitional housing might suggest). Instead, transition means a time that requires extra support. So, my answer is this – if we take the time, use our patience and extend our resources (including financial ones) in a compassionate way toward teens who are transitioning into adulthood, especially those who struggle the most or who find themselves homeless, then we can truly change the dysfunctional trajectory of a young life and prevent what might otherwise be a lifetime of tragedy as an adult.

So on the eve of the release of the “Homeless Youth Report”, I answer a resounding “Yes!”, we need to invest in our young people until age 25…at least until then J.

Dan Brannen

Executive Director

Covenant House Washington

Stay Tuned for more exciting guest blogs from DCAYA's member orgs throughout the month of November!

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