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7/24/2013 10:05:00 PM
Boys Ranch, PCYS Launch Transitional Living Program
Janet Fultz, PCYS Executive Director; Bryan Larison, OLBR Executive Director; Ron Beer, Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and member of the Transitions Talk Force of OLBR and PCYS.Photo provided
Janet Fultz, PCYS Executive Director; Bryan Larison, OLBR Executive Director; Ron Beer, Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and member of the Transitions Talk Force of OLBR and PCYS.

Photo provided

Youth who have been in difficult circumstances during their childhood and adolescence and who reach their eighteenth birthday often find themselves without necessary skills and resources to succeed in the adult world. In the world of intervention and social services programming, this critical time is called Transitioning Into Adulthood. Payne County Youth Services and the Oklahoma Lions Boy's Ranch see this challenge play out for youth almost daily.

"Not all youth have had the support or environment that allowed them to learn certain skills or develop certain personal habits that are needed to operate independently," stated Janet Fultz, Executive Director for Payne County Youth Services. "Additionally, if they have experienced significant or chronic trauma, there may be emotional barriers to their ability to interact with the world. As the field better understands this time of human development, the term of emerging adulthood has been added to attempts to evaluate the process and provide appropriate interventions to assist those who need a little extra help during this normal time of life. Adulthood does not just happen, at least not for everyone, and our program is designed to assist, but not to create dependency on that assistance for young people learning to navigate the world effectively as adults."

It is to address this need that PCYS and the OLBR established the Payne County Transitions Task Force, in January of 2012. "We have been meeting for over a year now," stated Bryan Larison, Executive Director at the Oklahoma Lions Boy's Ranch. "We have brought together a great team of service providers, community members, social service organizations and state leaders to bring a Transitions Program to Stillwater and the Payne County area. It is our goal to provide a variety of services that include housing, case management, employment assistance, educational assistance, mental health and substance abuse services, mentoring and other components to assist youth in becoming independent, contributing members of the community."

The collaboration of two established agencies to this degree is one important and unique aspect of this project. PCYS and OLBR bring over 90 combined years of providing services to at-risk youth in the area. Supported by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, with assistance from other state agencies and local partners, this collaborative effort is truly a grass-roots program to serve the youth of the community.

"It is time for our agencies and our Task Force to let the public know what we have been working on," stated Fultz. "It is time for us to challenge the community to assist us to make this program a reality. We are pursuing various grants to assist with this programming. PCYS also received funding from the Sarkeys Foundation for the program."

Approximately, 300 youth age out of foster care in Oklahoma each year. While not all of those youth will fall into the category for youth "at risk" during this transitional developmental time, many will be at risk. Many other youth who were never taken into custody but have many barriers to effective, independent living turn eighteen and experience significant problems. Under-employment, homelessness, educational deficits and other concerns may derail the youth's ability to accomplish the necessary tasks.

"Assisting youth to meet these necessary goals is where our joint Transitions Program comes into play," stated Larison. "We will be able to tailor specific intervention plans for each young person to address the barriers they are facing and help them to live independent, healthy lives."

The program is expected to serve between four and twelve youth at any one time, depending on the level of need of the youth in the program. Not all youth will need every element of the program, and fewer will need the housing component, the most costly of the program elements. Time in the program will also be varied, depending on the individual needs of each program participant.

"We are hopeful that churches, civic organizations, businesses and concerned citizens will support this effort," agreed Larison and Fultz. "Federal and state funding are not dependable at this time, but our youth cannot wait for that situation to be rectified. We are asking the community to help with dollars, donated or reduced cost apartment rentals, volunteers, transportation, donated food, gift cards for incentives for program participants, job opportunities, or act as mentors, tutors and advocates."

One of the founding members of the Transitions Task Force is Ron Beer, Retired Vice President for Student Affairs at Oklahoma State University, and current volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. "As a member of the Transitions Task Force of the Lions Boys Ranch and the Payne County Youth Services joint effort to be responsive to the challenges of some of our community youth, I would like to respectfully urge my fellow citizens to carefully consider supporting this critically important program," stated Beer.

"Not all of our younger citizens have had an environment while growing through adolescence to observe or learn about how to become a productive person, to receive constructive guidance about growing into adulthood and the individual responsibilities that are necessary to achieve a successful transition into adulthood, and to develop skills essential to be an independent, responsible citizen. They are referred to or seek the services of non-profit social service agencies, such as PCYS and OLBR, for shelter, protection, and guidance. At age eighteen, they are required to leave the "shelter" that provides them with direction, caring counselors, adult exposure to skills to survive in the "real" world, how to be responsible for their behavior and understand the consequences of their decisions."

"Without a transition program", Beer continued, "such young people are literally turned into the streets. This should be unacceptable in a community as caring as Stillwater. You and I can make a big difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable young people by making personal contributions of money, urging the church community to which we belong and persuade the civic clubs of which we are members to make monetary donations, and support those members of the business community which join the efforts to find funding to support the development and implementation of this Transition Program. Let us not fall into complacency and ignore this relatively small but very vulnerable group of young men and women. With firm direction, provided in a loving and caring environment, most if not all of these young citizens can become productive members of our community. Give generously!"

"We are very grateful to the members of the Transitions Task Force for their time and commitment," stated Fultz, of PCYS. "We asked this very diverse group of people to take time out of their busy schedules to work on a program that did not yet exist and to believe in something that we could not promise would happen. They have done all of this and more and are a very integral part of our ability to begin this program. We are enrolling our first TLP Program Participant this week and are very excited to bring this important program to our community. We are available to make presentations to groups or individuals who want to learn more about this program."

For information on the Payne County Transitions Program or the lead agencies you may visit their websites at www.pcys.org., at www.olbr.org., or by calling PCYS at (405) 377-3380, or the OLBR at (405) 547-2462. . You may also find them on facebook.

Members of the Payne County Transitions Task Force, in addition to Beer, Larison and Fultz are: Jim Rice, Norman McNickle, Jana Nelson, Ryan Smith, Anthony Kibble, Quinn Schipper, Gary Theilen, Allen Carson, Katharine Carson, Dan Carmen, Cory Swearingen, Jamie Teal, Jonathan Stein, Tara Goldman, Owen Cayton and Vanessa Wedlake.

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