Transitional Living Program
The ReDCo Group — Pottsville, Pennsylvania
The names have been changed in this article but the stories are very real.
Katie lived in an orphanage until the age of 4 when she was adopted. Life was never easy for Katie but then she became the target of bullying in school. Katie became an angry young woman, given to acting out and self mutilation. Katie was referred to numerous treatment programs and eventually landed in a group home. Now Katie has "aged out" of that program. She wants no contact with her adoptive parents and is unprepared to live on her own. Where can she go?
Kelly lost her mother during the pre-teen years. This lack of primary support created such despair in Kelly that she attempted suicide multiple times. Kelly has been through numerous treatment programs, including several inpatient hospitalizations. Last year Kelly enrolled in college but dropped out after she overdosed in yet another attempt to end her young life. While in the hospital, it was determined that it would not be beneficial for her to return home. Where can Kelly acquire the necessary skills to be able to live on her own?
Karl has been a "foster care kid" for most of his 18 years. He was taken from his mother at a young age because of her excessive drinking and her inability to care for a child. Karl was the victim of a verbally abusive caregiver which resulted in serious issues with his self-image and mental health problems. When he turned 18, Karl went to live with biological family members where he stopped taking prescribed psychiatric medications, started smoking pot, and began getting into trouble. He is just about to be thrown out of that home. Karl is lacking in most all areas of independent living skills and is without resources. Is there a place in the world for him?
In Pottsville, PA, there is a place for Katie, Kelly, and Karl. The ReDCo Group has a unique program known as the Transitional Living Program (TLP). In our 22 year history of providing behavioral health services for young adults and adolescent consumers, we have seen a need for safe, secure living environments for transitional age youth. Individuals who are leaving the young adult-serving systems of group homes and residential treatment facilities sometimes do not have a viable family setting to which they can return. Other adolescents or young adults involved with Children & Youth, Juvenile Probation, or the Mental Health System may be living in a situation that is unsafe or inappropriate. Some want to begin new lives on their own but they lack the skills and resources to make this happen.
As a result of this need, the TLP program was developed. It is licensed to serve seven residents, male and female, between the ages of 16 and 21. The program is housed in a two-floor apartment several blocks from the center of the City of Pottsville, PA, and is easily accessible to an array of community services. The purpose of this program is to provide a stable, safe living environment while youth/young adults participate in learning independent living skills and developing mental health stability. The long-term goal is to prevent long-term dependence on the social service system. The participant is encouraged to develop a service program that is all encompassing. Services may include: vocational, educational, mental health, drug and alcohol, and life skills management.
Once a recommendation for the Transitional Living Program is received, the program director assesses the young adult for strengths and needs, goal identification, and placement appropriateness and begins the interagency staffing process. Interagency staffing is held in order to involve the multi-systems working with the young adult. The participant is required to be involved in some type of educational program, be it business school, college, vocational training, or an on-line curriculum. If they are not actively enrolled in an educational program they are required to have a job.
The TLP is staffed 24/7. The site meets all state and local building codes. There are four comfortably furnished bedrooms and bathrooms with showers nearby. Common areas include a large community living room with television, video games and music, a dining room, and a full kitchen. There is a staff office that is locked when unattended as medications and files are stored there. A washer and dryer are available on site and linens and towels are provided. There is an outdoor patio and a small backyard as well as a second floor porch.
Participation in the program is voluntary and requires the continued cooperation of the residents. A resident council provides oversight and necessary follow up. Meals are planned as a group. Shopping lists are created and the residents go grocery shopping together. They take turns with meal preparation and clean-up as well as other chores necessary to keep the building clean and functioning smoothly. Life skills training takes place daily, both as group work and as the staff guide and direct the participant on the road to economic independence and a level of future well-being.
Each of the TLP residents sees a therapist at least once a week. They are encouraged to make and keep their own appointments including making transportation arrangements when at all possible. Pottsville has a bus transit system that covers the area fairly well but does not operate after 5:00 PM so sometimes the TLP staff aids the resident with transportation. Residents are asked to sign in and out as they go about their lives and they often venture home on weekends to connect with their families.
Is the Transitional Living Program successful? If you were to ask Karl, you would hear from a young man who has finally found some peace and contentment. Karl's early life was filled with a sense of failure — nothing he ever did was good enough for the adults in his life. Now, Karl has found that he has a great sense of humor and other people like being around him. He is working the program and gaining self-confidence. We expect good things from Karl.
Katie has not been with the program long and she is slowly settling in. Staff at the TLP believe it will take some time for Katie to overcome her anger and accept these new people in her life as caring and non-judgmental individuals who only wish her well.
Kelly's depression is severe but she has now enrolled in a course at Penn State Schuylkill Campus where she is maintaining a passing grade. More importantly, Kelly is getting to class and doing the expected work. She is wading back into the academic world, but this time she has an intact support system and monitoring of her mental health by professionals. A successful semester will be a triumph for Kelly and may signify something very important for this bright and articulate young woman.
The staff at the Transitional Living Program are invested in helping the program participants get a good start in life. In most cases, residents have not had the love and support necessary to create healthy, happy adults. We hope we can help them readjust and set off on life's road with higher hopes and better prospects.