Author(s): Urban Institute
Published: March 18, 2020
“Research suggests emerging adulthood (defined roughly as ages 18 to 26) is a distinct and critical stage for paving the way to healthy and stable adulthood. A lack of support and opportunity during this stage can increase people’s risk of justice system involvement and carry lifelong consequences for them and their communities. Developing targeted policies and services that promote healthy development among young people, bolster their resiliency, and help them reach key milestones can improve individual outcomes and support public safety. Practitioners and policymakers are increasingly acknowledging this fact and designing justice responses specifically for emerging adults.
However, much less attention has been paid to building and sustaining community-based continua of care and opportunity to support young adults and help them avoid the harmful and lasting consequences of justice involvement. Justice practitioners and service providers can reduce emerging adults’ justice system contact by supporting prevention efforts, offering diversion opportunities alongside social services, and reducing the long-term negative impacts of justice involvement. In turn, these strategies can advance public safety, mitigate barriers created by structural inequality, and build alliances with community partners.
This guide synthesizes research about emerging adults’ unique needs and highlights strategies for supporting them. We conducted a high-level literature review, identified examples of policies and programs US communities are using to support young adults, and interviewed six emerging adults (box 1 offers additional methodological details). This guide’s sections highlight three focus areas for practitioners looking to improve outcomes for emerging adults: (1) relationships and support networks, (2) health and well-being, and (3) stability and financial security. Each section includes a research overview, examples of strategies and programs, feedback from emerging adults, and guiding questions for practitioners regarding ways to leverage community supports for emerging adults.”