Tay 101

Who are TAY?!


Tay stands for Transitional Age Youth. It is a term used to represent all young people between 16 and 25 years old.

TAY are not adults and they are not children. They are a special demographic with its own culture and unique needs.

Know Your TAY

The importance of cultural competency is widely recognized as critical in the design of programs, policies, and practices. While many things fall into this category, cultural competency around age is often overlooked. Therefore when incorporating TAY into your committee, group, or meeting, it is important to be culturally competent in this practice.

Transition Age Youth (TAY) have unique needs and it is important to view their participation in light of their current situation. Because TAY are usually not integrated into the general membership of committees, boards, meetings, etc. they can be tokenized and asked to represent “all TAY” in their participation. It is absolutely necessary to recognize that within the group “TAY” there are many subgroups such as:

  • foster youth,
  • youth who have been through the juvenile justice system,
  • youth experiencing mental illness for the first time,
  • youth who have been living with their illness most of their life,
  • homeless youth, youth both in school and/or working,
  • young parents,
  • youth who may be caregivers of siblings,
  • and many more.

While TAY can speak about many generalizable experiences of young people, know that when dealing with specific issues you may need to engage young people with that specific background.

Young people are usually asked to talk about personal experiences and to “tell their story”, but may not have the years of experience and formal training that many of the adults in the room have. Therefore taking the time to create mutual trust and respect is imperative.

It is important to keep in mind that TAY are in a transformative time in their life, experiencing the physical and emotional development that comes with this age. Beyond the physiological development of this age group they are also dealing with the personal and life changes that come with maturing. Many are aging out of foster care, leaving their home, or going to college, meaning that they are on their own for the first time in their lives. If the youth have been part of the mental health system already, then they will most likely be changing funding streams between the Children’s and Adults’ System of Care, which can be a very scary and challenging process.