Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Developmental Competencies and Resilience
Mental health is not just the absence of a disease or mental health disorder, it is much more. As youth grow and mature, they achieve mental and emotional milestones. This process can be described as achieving developmental competence, or the ability to navigate social, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tasks at different developmental stages. A part of achieving developmental competence is adhering to cultural and social norms and developing a positive sense of identity, efficacy, and well-being.1
Resilience and Positive Youth Development
The Positive Youth Development movement, with its roots in prevention, has focused on the development of mental health through its focus on the role of resiliency, the protective factors in a youth’s environment, and the role they play in a youth’s ability to deal with adversity. Much like mental health promotion, the positive youth development approach promotes enhancing youth strengths and positive outcomes through fostering healthy relationships and providing opportunities. Visit the positive youth development topic for more information.
Individual, family, school, and community characteristics also assist with healthy development.2
For the individual, positive development in adolescence includes the following:
- Physical development
- Intellectual development
- Psychological and emotional development
- Social development
Family, School, Community
For the family, school, and community, features of positive developmental settings include the following:
- Physical and psychological safety
- Appropriate structure
- Supportive relationships
- Opportunities to belong
- Positive social norms
- Support for efficacy and mattering (allowing youth to make useful contributions and feel like they make a difference)
- Opportunities for building skills
- Integration of family, school, and community efforts
1 Eccles & Gootman, 2009
2 Eccles & Gootman, 2002; Search Institute, 2006
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Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).