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Career Development for Transition-Aged Youth with Emotional Disturbances: Exemplary Practices of Florida Mental Health & Substance Abuse Agencies


Relative to their peers in the general population, transition-age youth with emotional disturbances (TAY w/ED) face a challenging path to successful adulthood, particularly in the area of career development. These youth have significant difficulties progressing toward successful careers through obtaining early work experiences, completing their education and training at the secondary and postsecondary levels, and finding rewarding employment with possibilities for advancement. The implications of these career development difficulties for the longterm behavioral health of these youth are quite significant. Failing to achieve the transition to successful adult roles, particularly in the world of work, renders these youth vulnerable to a variety of poor outcomes with costly public health consequences such as continued, debilitating mental health problems, substance abuse dependence, and other serious issues (Davis & Koyanagi, 2005; Podmostko, 2007).

Research has demonstrated the positive impact of certain evidence-based practices in improving career development outcomes such as supported employment (Twamley, Jeste, & Lehman, 2003). However, these strategies have not been adapted for TAY w/ED. Though an emerging literature on career development practices for TAY w/ED exists, this literature has not been systematically reviewed. In addition, efforts by publicly-funded sites in Florida to implement such programs have not been comprehensively described.


The study had two primary aims: 1) Completion of a systematic review of the literature and consultation with experts on career development services for TAY w/ED (i.e., aged 14 -25) to identify exemplary practices for these programs; 2) Comprehensive descriptions of career development programs for TAY w/ED in the state, attending particularly to ways programs have implemented exemplary practices identified through existing literature and expert consultation. Statewide surveys of circuit level Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) administrators and Multi-agency Network for Students with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SEDNET) project administrators were used to identify programs. Data collection for the multiple case study included interviews with program directors, providers, TAY receiving services, and community partners, record reviews, and direct observations of services.


Haber, M. G., Loker, T., Deschênes, N., & Clark, H. B. (2008). Career development for transition-aged youth with emotional disturbances: Exemplary practices of Florida mental health and substance abuse agencies (Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) series No. 220-115). Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute.

Faculty & Staff