A Program Model With True Youth Voice
All generations adopt technology, but young people are most adept at harnessing it. No one knows that better than the transition facilitators (TFs) at Jewish Family and Children's Service (JFCS) in Phoenix, AZ. It's part of their practice.
"You have to go where the youth are, go where they feel comfortable," said Mary Schraven, system of care director at JFCS. "Our staff is completely virtual. We have laptops, wireless cards, and Blackberry devices with text messaging. Texting is one of the most important things that JFCS does with the youth we serve. Sometimes youth that have a hard time connecting can type something into a phone that they can't say verbally."
By adopting the Transition to Independence Process (TIP) model, developed by Hewitt B. "Rusty" Clark of the University of South Florida in Tampa, TIP prepares youth and young adults for self-sufficiency and helps them achieve their goals by promoting independence, interdependence, and connection. The program succeeds, not with a bricks-and-mortar approach, but because it is entirely community-based, on a 24/7 basis, and includes the use of social media.
"By utilizing this technology, we have found youth; we have gotten tips when youth are AWOL or missing or hurt," continued Mary.
Another tool that JFCS uses in its TIP program is Facebook. TFs have Facebook accounts at work that allow them to see what's going on in a young person's life, so when a youth posts that he or she is having a difficult day, it triggers an alert on a TF's Blackberry with that actual message.
"Facebook allows the setup of notifications, so if a youth sends you an email on your Facebook, you'll get a buzz on your phone. Social media is just huge in a young person's world now, so we decided to embrace it and have literally saved lives by having the technology available to us and employing it," said Mary.
Research shows that if youth have at least one consistent adult in their lives, they have a higher likelihood of success. As Mary put it, "TIP works because we are that one person!"