Forging Paths: Crafting Supportive Systems for Youth’s Journey into Adulthood

Colorful background image with a blue horizontal color block going across the top of the image. The LifeConnect Health logo is centered in the blue color block. Centered in the image is two hands holding an electronic tablet with six square photos of people smiling on the screen.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

On the eve of her 18th birthday, Clara’s tears mirrored the uncertainty that loomed ahead. While most teenagers her age were filled with anticipation for the adventures of adulthood, Clara felt none of that excitement.

Transition planning had not gone well, leaving her facing a stark reality. On her 18th birthday, she would stand alone at a homeless shelter, without the safety net of SSI benefits or the comfort of familiar support systems. No high school diploma, no access to money, no one to turn to for guidance.

Still, Clara’s resilience was evident. Despite her limited knowledge of navigating the world independently, she knew how to ensure her safety. With a decisive call to 911, Clara secured herself a bed in an inpatient unit, breathing a sigh of relief.

As she entered the realm of adult services, Clara was met with a Circle of Support, though they were strangers to her life and experiences. Assuming her need for acute psychiatric care, they sprang into action, planning her treatment with efficiency.

And just like that, on her first day as an adult, Clara became a patient.

Unfortunately, Clara’s story is all too familiar, reflecting the challenges that many young people face as they transition into adulthood, especially those navigating complex systems like foster/residential care and mental health services. However, her experience also highlights the potential for change and improvement within these systems.

Tennessee boasts an abundance of services and philosophies that could support successful transitions and mitigate further challenges. However, collaboration between the child and the adult systems remains scarce. It is imperative that this collaboration begins well before a youth’s 18th birthday to minimize disruption and facilitate a smoother transition.

Several transition domains require attention and coordination between systems. Questions abound, demanding solutions:

  • In terms of housing, how can we work together to provide young people with a clear vision of their future living arrangements and the support they will receive there?
  • Regarding meaningful activities, how can we prepare youth for the shift from structured school routines to meaningful employment or community engagement, and support those who wish to continue their education?
  • In terms of finances, how can we streamline processes to ensure that benefits are available to youth as soon as they turn 18?
  • With healthcare, how can we facilitate the transition from pediatric to adult care, ensuring that relevant information is shared and continuity of care is maintained?
  • For those who require guardianship, how can we ensure that conservatorship services are in place for those who are unable to make decisions independently?
  • And in terms of mental health treatment, how can we ensure that youth can continue treatment with the same providers, minimizing the loss of important historical information and therapeutic relationships during the transition to adulthood?

By addressing these questions and working collaboratively across systems, we can provide young people like Clara with the support and resources they need to navigate the transition to adulthood successfully, ensuring that they have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

Until the day when all systems are effectively organized to maximize outcomes, prioritizing a sense of belonging or connection is crucial for mental health. This is a fundamental aspect of LifeConnect Health’s mission.

As a provider of emotional regulation therapy, skill building, and psychiatric advocacy, we embrace a model that transcends mere service provision. We aim to foster a therapeutic community where individuals feel they belong—a community that is portable through telehealth and can be accessed independently on a tablet provided to each of our members. We are committed to accompanying each individual on their therapeutic journey. We strive to help restore hope and foster their crafting of a vision for their future.

About the Author:


Celine Turco is one of LifeConnect Health’s Founders and serves as the Vice President of Tennessee’s NADD Board.



Dreyzehner J., Goldberg K., Sims S., Turco C. (2021) Dilemmas in Disability. In: Chan V., Derenne J. (eds) Transition-Age Youth Mental Health Care. Springer, Cham.