Young adult center opens in Bowling Green

Campus Editor and Campus Editor

Wood County is beginning to address a need that has been ignored nationally— the need of a population labeled as youths and young adults in transition.

Youths and young adults in transition are people ages 16 to 24 who are possibly not enrolled in school and may be between children’s services and adult services, said Janelle LaFond, executive director of the Wood County Children’s Resource Center.

“A lot of kids turn 18 and say they’re going to live alone and … are basically homeless,” LaFond said.

The CRC is addressing the needs of these young adults in one way by opening a Young Adult Resource Center. The center, which is open now, is a branch of the CRC, a community mental health center for children, adolescents and their families, and is located behind Panera Bread on Main Street in Bowling Green.

The resource center is a drop-in center for youths and young adults to come in and hang out, LaFond said.

Equipped with a flat-screen TV, books, mini-fridge, microwave, pool table, ping pong table and soon, computers, the center is meant to help young adults with activities like finding jobs, housing and connecting them with other resources to help them, said Steve Jackson, youth and young adults in transition program coordinator at CRC.

“What I want most is for this to be the ideal place for a young adult to visit and feel comfortable being here,” Jackson said. “Not only for fun and games and activities, but also for the educational and supportive resources.”

Kevin Young, 19, agrees with LaFond that the center is a place to just hang out.

Young sees it as a place where people will be “having fun, feeling safe and being able to be themselves.”

The center is not only for drop-ins — it will also host programs to prepare youths and young adults for life challenges, Jackson said.

The first program the center will host is called Personal Responsibility Education Program, Jackson said.

“[We will] discuss things regarding … healthy relationships, financial literacy, education, employment preparation skills and healthy life skills, such as goal-setting and stress management,” Jackson said.

While using the center is free, LaFond said it is not like a teen center.

“We want to help sort out what [visitors] need,” LaFond said. “It’s a meeting place for clients. Come in, sit down and talk to us.”

The need for a place like the center was identified by a County-Wide Assessment of the Needs of Transitional Youth, LaFond said.

“It really gave us the information that that was really a population that was in need,” she said.

The assessment was done by the University Psychological Services Center.

Eric Dubow, professor of Psychology at the University, was asked as a representative of the Psychological Services Center to do the needs assessment of the county. Needs assessments are done periodically to try and get a handle on the needs of the county, Dubow said.

To find the needs of young adults, Dubow, with Bill Donnelly, adjunct clinical psychology faculty at the University, and graduate students, tried to get a sense of what kinds of needs transitional youths have.

Transitional youths are hard to find or get ahold of because of the nature of the way they live. They are transient, Dubow said. In order to define their needs, Dubow and Donnelly talked to professionals in the county who provide services to transitional youths, Dubow said. They also found and surveyed 23 transitional youth, Dubow said.

“Some concerns [of this group] are lack of financial resources, lack of transportation or unreliable transportation, lack of knowledge about available services, lack of budgeting skills, which impact the ability to maintain housing and living independently, and perceived stigma,” Dubow said.

After age 18, there is a gap in services between youths and adults, he said.

“It’s a different system, different philosophy, eligibility criteria,” Dubow said. “So trying to navigate that system change is an issue for 18-to-24 year olds.”

An issue the Young Adult Resource Center will hopefully be able to fix, LaFond said.

“[It will be] providing a place for those kids who are kind of stuck and not able to make the transition into adulthood by themselves,” she said.

This isn’t a new problem, it has just been unaddressed, Donnelly said. It is also not specific to Wood County, it’s a nationally emerging issue, Donnelly said.

“[In] most social services the emphasis is placed on adolescents and adults,” Jackson said. “We wanted to include in our focus services geared to young adults, because they’re missing out in a sense.”