By Amanda Hatfield
BREVARD -- Each year, as many as 30 young people make the life-changing transition from traditional foster care to independence in Brevard County.
A new community based program, Transitions, was established to help these young adults.
"Transitions is unique to Brevard," said Susan Stead, program director at Transitions. "There are programs in other communities and in other states that share a similar goal of reaching out to the young adults, who have recently exited foster care in an effort to support their successful transitions to independence and stay connected within their communities."
Program construction for Transitions began in summer of 2012, with the goal of giving young adults exiting foster care the resources and support needed to become contributing members of their communities.
"Transitions was launched through the support and direction of Brevard Family Partnership, the county's lead child welfare agency," Mrs. Stead said. "Melbourne-based Paxen Learning was tasked by BFP to construct and launch the program."
Without organizations like Transitions, those making the journey from foster care to independence can be at a significant disadvantage.
"Current findings reveal that the majority of young adults moving on from foster care don't often have access to the level of crucial support and guidance that is typically available to those who come from more traditional and stable family and home environments," Mrs. Stead said.
Young people exiting foster care, who don't make the connections to the many valuable resources that Transitions and similar programs help facilitate, face a higher risk of homelessness, incarceration, poverty, substance abuse and early pregnancy.
"In most states, including Florida, when young people turn 18, they exit out of traditional foster care services," Mrs. Stead said. "These young adults can elect to receive additional 'transitional' programs and services until they reach 23."
Some 'transitional' programs and services, like Independent Living and Road to Independence, provide funding support, while the young adults are enrolled in school, access to emergency funds, help with life skills, job training, transportation and housing.
"Each individual is unique in his or her needs and the progress they've made toward independence," Mrs. Stead said. "Transitions can help connect them to a range of community resources, from emergency and counseling services, to money management, transportation, education and career planning."
"Transitions engages young adults and provides them with a single point-of-entry on the road to independence," Mrs. Stead said.
Currently, a young adult advisory board and community partners committee are being constructed.
"The young adult advisory board is made up of young adults, who recently exited foster care," Mrs. Stead said. "They provide a variety of insights, including what topics should be addressed in workshops and what resources should be listed on our website."
The community partnership committee will be comprised of area professionals and members of local organizations that will provide guidance to the young adults.
In the brief time since its establishment, Transitions has launched a workshop series to provide important information and guidance on a range of topics.
"Members of the Space Coast REALTORS Association lead a discussion and provided valuable insights on how to find adequate housing," Mrs. Stead said.
Local attorney and community advocate, Kendall Moore, recently spoke to the group.
"Mr. Moore discussed the importance of knowing their legal responsibilities, the importance of having proper identification, and how to take some basic steps to help prevent identity theft," Mrs. Stead added.
In an effort to keep up with trends amongst 18 to 23-year-olds, Transitions built an interactive website for the young adults to use.
"The website is built on a platform designed to allow for interactive communication between the program team, the young adults and community partners," Mrs. Stead said. "The Transitions team is also using Facebook and Twitter."
The establishment of Transitions has been a highly important asset to the Brevard County community.
"The challenges these young adults face are very real. Some figures show that 25 percent do not have a high school diploma or GED, less than 2 percent will finish college, and nearly half will experience at least one episode of homelessness," Mrs. Stead said. "The good news is that, with the right guidance and community connections, these young adults will have every change for success as any other comparable group of young adults and programs, like Transitions, can -- and are -- making a difference."
For more information about Transitions or to become a community partner, contact Susan L. Stead at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (321) 217-8179.