Severe Mental Illness and Aging out
I currently provide direct service to young adult’s between the ages of 18 and 20 years old who suffer from severe mental illness. These young adults are currently Wards of the State of Illinois and are close to “aging out” of the Child Welfare System. They currently reside in an Independent Living Program where they receive specialized support to help them transition from a residential treatment center into the community. The program emphasizes on building self-sufficiency, problem-solving skills, educational and employment development skills to prepare them for emancipation. Most lack education, housing, ...view middle of the document...
After interviewing some of the clients that reside at Thresholds Young Adult Program, they either had not given much thought about aging out, or they reported they would not survive without the support from the agency. In this paper, I will focus on the Child Welfare System and challenges young adults with severe mental illness face once they “age out” of the system. I will examine the scope of the problem with the system as it relates to the vulnerable young adults. I will also identify the resources that are currently available to support this population as they transition into the community, as well as provide recommendations for how the system can improve the emancipation process.
Turning 18 or 21 years old is considered a mild stone for gaining independence. For many young adults, this is the beginning of moving into their first apartment, enrolling in advanced education program or staring a career. The development of secure attachments, positive social interactions and self-sufficiency skills during the initial stages of development, allows for a smooth transition to adulthood. Young adults who have experience significant trauma such as any form of abuse and or neglect, and were placed into the Child Welfare System may experience difficult challenges upon emancipation. Comprehensive research suggest that the development of a secure attachment in the first two years of life is related to effective emotional regulation, and higher sociability with adults and peers ( Pearce and Pezzot-Pearce, 2001). According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “aging out”, the system reports that once a Ward turns eight or twenty-one; regardless if they have developed all the skills and tools imperative for survival, they are no longer under the systems care. Christy Gutowski (2012) an editor from the Chicago Tribune reported that prior to emancipation, DCFS pushes for older wards to move quickly towards Transitional Living Programs even if they have not developed the social/environmental skills to live independently. This has become increasingly problematic because most of these young adults continue to depend on others and need continued support as they transition to adulthood.
According to Pottick et al. (2008), between 25,000 and 30,000 youth age out of the Child Welfare System annually in the Untied States. At least 70% of those individuals have been diagnosed with Sever Mental Health Conditions. As a result of these traumatic experiences, many of these young adult, will be diagnosed with sever mental health conditions. Post- traumatic stress disorder, Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity disorder, Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder, and Conduct Disorder are some of the most common diagnoses. After examining the experiences and outcomes of young adults with Sever Mental Illness, researchers indicated that many of these individuals were more likely to face adversities than their...