Objectives: This qualitative study assessed the needs for mental health and other services among transition-age youths who were receiving services in youth-specific programs.
Methods: Thirteen focus groups were conducted between June 2008 and January 2009. The purposefully sampled participants included transition-age youths age 18 to 24 who were receiving services in youth-specific programs (N=75, eight groups), parents of transition-age youths (N=14, two groups), and providers in the youth-specific programs (N=14, three groups). The qualitative analysis used an inductive approach in which investigators focused on generating themes and identifying relationships between themes. Through a process of repeated comparisons, the categories were further condensed into broad themes illustrating service needs.
Results: Youths expressed needs for improved scheduling of services, stronger patient-provider relationships, and group therapies that address past experiences of violence, loss, and sexual abuse and that provide skills for developing and nurturing healthy relationships. Parents and providers expressed needs for increased community-based and peer-led services. Youths, parents, and providers all expressed needs for more housing options and for mentors with similar life experiences who could serve as role models, information brokers, and sources of social support for youths who were pursuing education and employment goals.
Conclusions: Findings from the focus groups suggest that there is room for improvement in the provision of services that are relevant to the current needs and life experiences of transition-age youths. Even within age-specific programs, improvements in services are needed to foster transitions to independence.