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On Your Own without a Net

The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations

In the decade after high school, young people continue to rely on their families in many ways-sometimes for financial support, sometimes for help with childcare, and sometimes for continued shelter. But what about those young people who confront special difficulties during this period, many of whom can count on little help from their families?

On Your Own Without a Net documents the special challenges facing seven vulnerable populations during the transition to adulthood: former foster care youth, youth formerly involved in the juvenile justice system, youth in the criminal justice system, runaway and homeless youth, former special education students, young people in the mental health system, and youth with physical disabilities. During adolescence, government programs have been a major part of their lives, yet eligibility for most programs typically ends between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. This critical volume shows the unfortunate repercussions of this termination of support and points out the issues that must be addressed to improve these young people’s chances of becoming successful adults.


On Your Own Without a Net brings to light those many issues facing vulnerable youths as they transition to adulthood. The contributors to this ambitious and important volume focus specifically on those youths that have come in contact with mental health, juvenile justice, criminal, foster care, and special educational systems. It reflects a very innovative and interesting approach to linking research with policy and practice.”--Jane Knitzer, National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University

Jane Knitzer | Jane Knitzer

On Your Own Without a Net picks up where The Forgotten Half left off in the 1980s. This volume has been produced to warn policy makers and academics that the increasingly prolonged transition to adulthood presents special challenges to many socially excluded young people. It goes beyond the rhetoric of greater ‘freedom of self-determination’ to alert opinion leaders that millions of young Americans need support, guidance, and assistance in becoming productive, contributing members of society.”--James Côté, University of Western Ontario

James Cote | James Cote

“As parents whose children live at home after college know all too well, the transition to adulthood is difficult. But the transition is much tougher for youth who suffer disadvantages such as living in foster care or in juvenile facilities or who have mental or physical disabilities. This volume is the definitive overview of the problems faced by these troubled youth and the support they need and deserve from a largely indifferent government.”--Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution


Ron Haskins | Ron Haskins

Table of Contents

Michael S. Wald
1 Introduction: Why Focus on The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations?
D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster, Constance Flanagan, and Gretchen R. Ruth
2 The Transition to Adulthood for Youth “Aging Out” of the Foster Care System
Mark E. Courtney and Darcy Hughes Heuring
3 The Transition to Adulthood for Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System: A Developmental Perspective
He Len Chung, Michelle Little, and Laurence Steinberg
4 Policy and Program Perspectives on the Transition to Adulthood for Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System
David M. Altschuler
5 Young Adults Reentering the Community from the Criminal Justice System: The Challenge of Becoming an Adult
Christopher Uggen and Sara Wakefield
6 Prisoner Reentry and the Pathways to Adulthood: Policy Perspectives
Jeremy Travis and Christy A. Visher
7 Homeless Youth and the Perilous Passage to Adulthood
John Hagan and Bill McCarthy
8 Transition for Young Adults Who Received Special Education Services as Adolescents: A Time of Challenge and Change
Phyllis Levine and Mary Wagner
9 Transition Experiences of Young Adults Who Received Special Education Services as Adolescents: A Matter of Policy
Phyllis Levine and Mary Wagner
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10 Risks along the Road to Adulthood: Challenges Faced by Youth with Serious Mental Disorders
J. Heidi Gralinski-Bakker, Stuart T. Hauser, Rebecca L. Billings, and Joseph P. Allen
11 Coping with Mental Health Problems in Young Adulthood: Diversity of Need and Uniformity of Programs
Phillip M. Lyons, Jr., and Gary B. Melton
12 Adolescents with Disabilities in Transition to Adulthood
Robert Wm. Blum
13 Youth with Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities in Transition to Adulthood
Patience Haydock White and Leslie Gallay
14 The Transition to Adulthood for Troubled Youth and Families: Common Themes and Future Directions
E. Michael Foster, Constance Flanagan, D. Wayne Osgood, and Gretchen R. Ruth
List of Contributors

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