The Adolescent Brain: New Research and its Implications for Youth People Transitioning From Foster Care

Many disciplines have contributed to the knowledge base regarding what enables young people in foster care to succeed. Now, neuroscience has added critical data to that base  by revealing that  in adolescence, the  brain  experiences a period of major development comparable to that  of early childhood.

Among the  implications of the  new  data  is this: Adolescents must take on distinct developmental tasks  in order to move through emerging adulthood and become healthy, connected, and productive adults—and young people  in foster care often lack the supports needed  to complete these tasks.

Unlike younger children in foster care, for whom safety and protection are the greatest need, older youth are in the process of developing greater autonomy and practicing adult roles and responsibilities. It is during adolescence and early adulthood that we develop a personal sense of identity, establishes emotional and psychological independence, establishes adult vocational goals, learn to manage sexuality and sexual identity, adopt a personal value system, and develop increased impulse control and behavioral maturity.  Chemical changes in the brain  that  prime  adolescents for risk-taking present rich  opportunities for them  to learn  from  experience and  mistakes and, with  adult support, gain  greater self-regulation, coping, and resiliency skills.

(From Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative)

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