by Wayne Munchel, LCSW   1 Comment

TAY Employed

I was lost. I was stressed. Everyone was rushing me to grow up and I just…I didn’t even begin to understand how that was to be done. I felt like a clock was ticking…time was running out. I needed to find work, become an adult, make a life for myself, but everything pushed against me doing that. In this world I found myself in, I was given a task, yet given a coming storm of obstacles to prevent me from achieving that, with no tools to work within assisting me. I had so many questions and no one had any answers. It broke me.

Derek’s plight was exactly what the Kern County stakeholders had in mind when they convened in 2013 to identify the needs of Transition Age Youth. Twenty system-involved youth, along with representatives from Kern County Mental Health, Kern County Department of Human Services Independent Living Program (ILP), and representatives from community housing programs, participated in a series of meetings to vote on service priorities for this vulnerable population. A clear consensus emerged; jobs and education were identified as the greatest needs facing youth and young adults living in Bakersfield.

This stakeholder collaboration followed an extensive training in the Transition to Independence Process (TIP) Model™, an evidence supported practice designed to improve the outcomes of youth and young adults with emotional and behavioral difficulties. One of the TIP system guidelines recommends “involving young people, parents, and other community partners in planning and guiding transition services”. The Kern County stakeholders recognized that effectively supporting youth like Derek, and the many others aging out of foster care, probation and children’s mental health in furthering their education and getting jobs would require significant collaboration – no one provider could do it alone.

The Kern County TAY Career Development program was launched. The Kern County Mental Health Department took the lead in busting out of the usual service silos, and reached out to Employer’s Training Resource to join the project and provide their vital expertise in vocational training and job coaching. Kern High School District also signed on as a sub-contractor to offer job development and placement services.

In order for the collaboration with multiple agencies to be successful, the Transition Age Youth team wanted to ensure that all planning partners spoke the same language. Therefore, the team invited all key players who may be involved in the transition process to learn the TIP Model. Partnering agencies and staff from Employer’s Training Resource, Kern High School District, social workers, probation officers, Independent Living Program (ILP) staff, and group home staff all participated in the TIP trainings.

Derek enrolled in the new program and picks up his story:

At first I was confused and didn’t really understand where things were going, but that’s just the way I am. But still…never before have I had so much support in my life. And then the four week program started, training us in job hunting and…I was making progress. I was making real, visible progress and that made me feel better about my life than I had in a very long time.

Participants work twenty hours per week for eight weeks at their “externship” sites. The available externship sites are varied and placement is tailored to meet each person’s individual strengths and interests, as well as how close their homes are to the sites. Examples of externships include daycare centers, the Garden Spot, Pac-Sun, Footlocker, CVS, and maintenance work at apartment complexes. Once an externship has ended, their employers have the opportunity to hire them as permanent employees. For the youth who do not get hired, an Employer’s Training Resource job developer continues to work with them one-on-one to find permanent employment.

Derek continues:

Now I’ve started my externship in which I’m on my second week, and the experience is invaluable. There’s direction in my life…it’s hard to believe it sometimes!

TAY programs can do much to either serve as on-ramps to futures of higher education, career opportunities and valued roles, or be pathways to life-times of poverty, disability and marginalization. Kern County is demonstrating that when youth and young adults like Derek, are supported by effective partnerships between mental health practitioners, business leaders, educators and job trainers, they can go far.


After completing his externship, Derek applied and was hired by an insurance firm as a Data Entry Clerk and was paid $15 an hour. He has since moved out of his mother’s home, and got an apartment in another state, where he works for a well known insurance company.

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by Wayne Munchel, LCSW   0 Comments

TAY Living Skills

Programs for Transition Age Youth (TAY) seek to teach living skills to youth and young adults enrolled in their programs. Whether budgeting, interviewing, or social skills, successful transitions to adulthood roles are thought to greatly depend on mastery of these (and many other) key developmental competencies. How do youth with emotional and behavioral difficulties best acquire these “independent living” skill sets? Through their families? In classrooms or groups? By watching role models, peer supporters or YouTube? Trial and error practice and rehearsal? All of the above?

Think about the last skill you remember learning how to perform. Maybe you wanted to know how to use a new computer program or fix a leaky faucet. Did you read about it (visual/linguistic)? Listen to an explanation (aural)? Do it yourself and learn by trial and error (physical)? Were you by yourself or with others? Clearly no one size or teaching method fits all youth; there’s a mix of preferred learning styles. When attempting to coach effectively, it can be important to assess learning styles and be able to utilize a mix of teaching methods.

The Transition to Independence Process (TIP) Model emphasizes “in-vivo” (in life) coaching as a preferred method. No one ever learned how to swim without getting wet, nor learned how to interview well without having the opportunity to practice and get feedback on interviewing. The in-vivo approach enables staff (Transition Facilitators) to individualize based on a youth’s learning preferences ‐ but focuses on real life situations (or at least simulated role-plays) as preferable to classroom or group curriculum instruction that may not generalize well. The TIP Model identifies three distinct in-vivo methods of skill development — for youth, with youth and by youth.

For youth

This approach employs modeling (watch me do it!) as a primary means of teaching. (It does not mean doing a task for the youth, if they are not present and paying attention.) Setting up role-plays or watching demonstrations on YouTube present additional options. These should be followed shortly with, “Now you try it”.

With youth

Side-by-side learning is frequently a preferred learning style of many youth. “Let’s both fill out this job application and discuss how each of us would respond”. This flexible style requires the wisdom of knowing when to back off and allow youth to struggle and when to step forward to support optimum chances of success.

By youth

Ultimately the success of teaching is determined by whether the youth is able to “transfer” the skill to real life situations when Transition Facilitators/staff are not around. Encouraging the youth to try this at home, with friends, or at new job or school is the critical challenge. Following up with youth to discuss and celebrate their trials and inevitable errors is crucial.


There are many methods, curriculums and techniques to teach youth skills. What are yours?



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