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Hear Their VoicesHow do you turn a 35-page resource manual into an easily accessible, age-appropriate, comprehensive pocket guide for youth in transition? That was the question being asked by staff at Transitions Homeless Recovery Center in Columbia. The center had a growing population of unaccompanied youth ages 18-24 that needed guidance into living independently. CoSW alum and Transitions Community Resource Specialist Lauren Wilkie, along with former CoSW dean Dr. Anna Scheyett and CoSW donor Ms. Stacey Atkinson began a collaboration that would go on to produce the Young Adult Passport.

Dr. Anna Scheyett, now Dean at the University of Georgia School of Social Work, says, “Youth at risk face so many challenges--and one of them is the complexity of the service system designed to help them. The Young Adult Passport was designed to put lots of information about supports and services at youth's fingertips, so they can access what they need as easily as possible.”

CoSW graduate research assistant Andrew Flaherty, with the help of Nyssa Snow, Doctoral student in the USC College of Arts and Sciences, created a gap analysis of resources and agencies that were connecting unaccompanied young adults to resources that would help them make a successful transition into independent living. Using qualitative data from the United Way of Midlands, the research team produced a suggested guide to services based on current and projected future needs. Ms. Wilkie and Ms. Atkinson developed a strategic plan to pilot the resource list with a group of young people transitioning to independence. The youth work group provided additional qualitative feedback and analysis, and designed the resource guide. The Young Adult Passport is written in youth-friendly terms and connects young people with resources that have the expertise to help them meet their goal of independent living in spite of previous challenges with housing insecurity.

Hear Their VoicesMs. Wilkie says, “A part of being a community resource specialist is recognizing that even the experts don’t know what’s available. Having a guide that’s easily accessible to teachers, parents, counselors, coaches, and easily understood by youth, is very important in our area. While this guide may not encompass every resource, it is a starting point for every need.”

The Young Adult Passport is still a work in progress. In 2017 CoSW graduate students will conduct another assessment for potential resource updates. Transitions will also work to make the guides water-proof, reduce printing costs. Click here to view the electronic version of the Young Adult Passport.

“With the support of non-traditional doors, opportunities for success are being made available because the College of Social Work, faculty, and students had the courage to stand with our youth,” says Stacey Atkinson, LMSW, of how CoSW is helping to make an impact in the lives of the youth in transition in our community.

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