Date: December 17, 2008
Vulnerable Youth Need Support Beyond 19 To Improve Their Lives
Teenagers and young adults involved in risky or even criminal lifestyles can turn their lives around with the right kind of support, according to a new report based on consultations with 75 BC youth aged 14 to 28. The participants in Listening to Vulnerable Youth: Transitioning to Adulthood in British Columbia told researchers they want to create healthy productive lives for themselves, have input on the policies that affect them, and an extension of some youth assistance benefits beyond the age of 19.
“The popular view is that it’s too late to intervene with young people who are having difficulties in life once they hit their late teens,” says University of Victoria psychologist Bonnie Leadbeater, co-director of the BC Child and Youth Health Research Network (www.cyhrnet.ca), which funded the study and conducted it in collaboration with researchers from the McCreary Centre Society and Thompson Rivers University. “But these youth do not want to be written off as a bad investment. One of the main problems they encounter is the loss of all support services when they turn 19.”
The report argues that most young adults in BC continue to receive support from their families beyond 19 as they transition to full independence, usually sometime in their mid-20s. But adolescents who leave school early, lack family support or become involved in risky behaviours can have considerable difficulties getting the support, education and job training they need to become economically independent adults.
Among the recommendations from the study’s participants to help them achieve successful independence are: access to permanent life mentors (many lack parents or other adults who are there for the long term); extended public transportation hours (most are too young to drive, can’t afford cars or aren’t in a position to call a parent for a drive); reduction of discrimination and bullying in public schools; and the availability of low-cost housing accessible to young people.
“The youth recognize that the transition to young adulthood is a process of losing help and connections but as they approach 19 there is little to replace these connections in terms of job training or assistance with gaining life skills,” says Leadbeater. “Without the basic foundations for moving into adult roles and responsibilities, life for these youth is mainly about living day-to-day.”
Access the Listening to Vulnerable Youth report on the Child and Youth Health Research Network website at www.cyhrnet.ca
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