Date of Graduation

Summer 8-17-2016

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Behavioral Health (MSBH)


School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Kathleen Raffel

Second Advisor

Kelly L'Engle



Transition age youth (TAY) are individuals transitioning from youth to adulthood (ages 14 to 24). TAY are individuals with emotional, behavioral, and/or developmental disabilities who cycle through the justice or foster care system, or are homeless and use social services (California Mental Health Planning Council [CMHPC], 2009; Mandarino, 2014). About 47.1 million young adults (14 to 24 years old) live in the United States; four million are 14-year olds, and by the time the 14-year-olds are 24 less than 100% will make an effort in successfully transitioning to adulthood, five to seven percent will reach age 25 without successfully transitioning to adulthood (CMHPC, 2009; U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, 2011; Wald & Martinez, 2003).

The transition to adulthood is a grueling process for the general population but is harder for TAY. Since TAY are at-risk of experiencing different illness, various medical cultures, changes in providers, stigma associated with mental illnesses, and poor management of services (Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs, 2011). The TAY community is less likely to transition to adulthood successfully without the proper guidance or skills. Thus, it is important for the agencies that serve TAY to understand the issues that face this vulnerable population. Additionally, it is vital that young adults understand service systems, how to access services, and especially how to advocate for their own needs in order to gain the help they need to transition successfully to adulthood.

Problem, Findings, and Project

Despite organizations that help homeless TAY such as the Drop-In Center (DIC) at the Bill Wilson Center (BWC), TAY continue to get disconnected from the system during the transition process. Findings from the interviews demonstrated the expert’s knowledge about the TAY community, and the population served at the DIC. The focus group responses showed the client’s lack of knowledge and misconception of effective communication. The findings concluded that there is a need and a desire for a self-advocacy training from the staff and the clients. After reviewing the literature and analyzing data from the needs assessment tools the project intern developed a self-advocacy training.

The project purpose was to design training that will promote self-determination through individual concepts and skills for the TAY. The project goals were: 1.) Assess staff and client attitudes about the services provided by the BWC drop-in center; and 2.) Analyze project data to inform new advocacy training program at the DIC to provide TAY with skills needed to become self-advocates. The self-advocacy training will help with TAY's self-determination and lead to a successful transition to adulthood. This project could have a positive impact on the vulnerable population.

Concluding Recommendations

Based on information from an extensive review of the literature and from data, it is advised that the agency apply a hands-on approach to transition planning that incorporates- knowledge obtained from the client’s experiences, effective communication, and current living skills to use during this phase. The new advocacy training program should be implemented at the DIC to provide TAY with skills needed to become self-advocates and self-sufficient. As recommended introducing self-advocacy at a younger age is necessary to facilitate a seamless progression to adulthood.