'NO STONE UNTURNED' AT THE VILLAGE NETWORK'S TRANSITIONAL LIVING PROGRAM

November 12, 2013

TVN transitional program helps pave way to success for youth

By LINDA HALL Staff WriterPublished: November 12, 2013 4:00AM

WOOSTER -- It has been on the mind of The Village Network's CEO since he took over the agency's helm a year ago.  

"What happens when kids age out (of the foster care or judicial system)?" Rich Graziano asked.  

A new transitional living program recently opened at Faulkner Cottage on the Wooster campus is part of his objective that he and his associates will leave "no stone unturned" in paving the way to success for youth who leave TVN's care.  

Seven young men have begun living there as a step-down location where they can be weaned incrementally from the 24/7 supervision and support system offered on the main campus.  

A 19-year-old named Imre (whose last name may not be used) is one of the first residents of the newly converted Faulkner.   He has been working for TVN's maintenance department, and, even though he already graduated from high school, is participating in the Wayne County Schools Career Center's program on the TVN campus.  

TVN's newly inaugurated transitional living program incorporates vocational and life skills training for youth leaving the system.   Schooling in hospitality/culinary arts, buildings and grounds, and landscaping and plant technologies is already "up and running," Graziano said, through the Career Center and Wooster City Schools.   "The bulk of our kids are going to be in the work force," said Mark Welty, a regional director for the agency, and thus need skills and trades as tickets to a successful transition to adulthood.   "(Imre) is enrolled as an adult learner," said Richard Rodman, TVN executive vice president.  

In the new TVN approach to preparing youth leaving the campus, "there are no barriers," Graziano said, such as not offering continuing education for a student who has already graduated. "(Those barriers are) not acceptable. You have to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do."   Imre cited "a little less supervision" in transitional living, noting that simultaneously behavioral expectations for him are higher.   "I pick my own bedtime," Imre said, and spends time thinking about his future and filling out a workbook he needs to complete while still taking part in most of the same therapeutic groups he did before moving to transitional housing.   He hopes to go to college.   "Limited scholarship dollars" for TVN youth are available, Rodman said.  

According to Graziano, 75 percent of homeless people have at some point been in foster care.   Graziano talked about youth who, when they leave the system, don't "have a place to go to be successful."   "We want to ensure our work isn't for nothing," Graziano said, desiring to prevent the young adults from becoming homeless and jobless or falling back into their former lifestyle.  

Dave Paxton, the Chief Strategy Officer, pointed out that many of the children in foster homes come from "broken, dysfunctional families."   "Imagine making the transition (to adulthood)," Paxton said, with "no resources, internally or externally. We're trying to give them independent living skills we take for granted."   Faulkner's conversion marks the first phase of transitional living, Rodman said.   The second phase will consist of converting office space in TVN's possession back to efficiency units; and the third phase, "on the priority list," the construction of a free-standing facility for transitional housing.

Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230, or lhall@the-daily-record.com.

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