The National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice


The National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice

National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice

Transition Planning and Services

Transition refers to a coordinated, outcome-based set of aftercare services for youth with disabilities in the juvenile justice system. Transition services help youth achieve social adjustment, employment, and educational success once they leave the juvenile justice system. The ultimate goal of transition interventions is to promote successful re-integration of juveniles into the community. In order to provide appropriate educational and vocational services to adjudicated youth, it is imperative that assistance be available for service providers and youth during transition periods.

Transition usually is the most ignored component of correctional education programs. Transition experiences and outcomes of juveniles with disabilities are often disheartening. Many juveniles released from correctional settings do not receive adequate vocational and educational training and other supports necessary to succeed in the community.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) holds promise for youth with disabilities leaving corrections because it requires their participation in transition services. Although transition planning and services should be identified as part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), many correctional and community agencies grapple with how to implement effectively, these requirements.

Components of Effective Transition

  • Interagency collaboration

Effective transition practices are those that are shared by correctional education staff as well as by personnel from the public schools and other community-based programs such as mental health and social services that send and receive students. The quality of educational and vocational services for students is contingent upon successful interagency collaboration.

  • Team-based planning

Transition services need to be developed and implemented by the IEP or transition team in cooperation with correctional counselors and other staff. This team generally includes the youth, special educators, general educators, other school personnel, family members, and community agency personnel. This team engages in a systematic process of decision making that includes determining eligibility for special education services, planning for appropriate placement, developing IEPs that include transitional services and goals, and providing appropriate educational, vocational, and related services to juveniles with disabilities.

  • Tracking and monitoring

Systematic and continual monitoring of youth through the juvenile justice system facilitates achieving transition goals and outcomes and allows for periodic evaluations of transition processes.


Several obstacles can interfere with the provision of effective transition services in juvenile corrections.

  • Due to a lack of transition planning, many juveniles are unprepared for successful integration into the community.

  • Service providers often receive inadequate professional development and specialized transition training. Due to a lack of interdisciplinary collaboration, service providers are often unprepared to provide appropriate transition services.

  • A significant lack of communication, coordination, and commitment often exists among agencies that serve at risk and delinquent youth. Given the fragmentation of many systems and agencies, it is often impossible to provide continuous, integrated services to juveniles with disabilities.

  • Transition planning in corrections is often delayed due to difficulty obtaining previous educational records. In addition, institutional records are rarely forwarded to educational or vocational aftercare programs once youth return to the community.

  • The lack of family involvement is one of the greatest challenges to the success of transition. Professionals involved in providing transition services are generally cognizant of the importance of including families in the transition process. Research on best transition practices also indicates a strong need for family involvement. However, efforts are needed to support parents? participation in the transition process for incarcerated juveniles.

Promising Practices

Although providing comprehensive transition services to youth in the juvenile justice system is a challenge, promising practices have been identified.

  • Linkages with community, business, and professional organizations. Cooperative contractual agreements among local agencies that provide transition services to juveniles need to be established in order to maintain a seamless continuum of care. Such linkages result in increased post release options for youth leaving corrections. A consistent transition planning process, curricula to support transition planning, databases to track and monitor student progress, and a planned sequence of services after release are the key ingredients of successful transition.

  • Wraparound services to deliver comprehensive and coordinated services to the youth. Historically, transition services for juvenile offenders have been fragmented, inefficient, and disconnected. A coordinated system ofcare needs to be developed. Wraparound services must focus on the strengths of the individual and his or her family. These services must be individualized and encompass all aspects of the youth?s life.

  • Pre-release training in social skills, independent living skills, and pre-employment training. There is evidence that juveniles who receive training in social skills, career exploration, and vocational education are more likely to succeed after release from juvenile correctional facilities.

What will EDJJ do?

EDJJ focuses on identifying comprehensive and coordinated linkages between the courts, the public schools, correctional education programs, and aftercare agencies. More specifically, EDJJ will address five objectives related to transition:

  • Examine state and local governmental and agency transition policies

  • Synthesize research on best and promising practices;

  • Identify exemplary transition programs and promising transition practices;

  • Conduct original research;

  • Build the capacity of state and local programs to provide effective transition services through ongoing training and technical assistance.

Accomplishment of these objectives will be facilitated through collaboration with and between families, the public schools, community agencies, and juvenile justice programs and facilities.


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Black, T, H., Brush, M. M., Grow, T.S., Hawes, J.H., Henry, D. S., & Hinkle, R. W., Jr. (1996). Natural Bridge Transition Program follow-up study. Journal of Correctional Education, 47, 4-12.

Bullis, M., & Cheney, D. (1999). Vocational and transition interventions for adolescents and young adults with emotional or behavioral disorders. Focus on Exceptional Children, 32,1-24.

Coffey, O. D., & Gemignani, M. G. (1994). Effective practices in juvenile correctional education: A study of the literature and research, 1980-1992. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. The National Office for Social Responsibility.

Lewis, K.S., Schwartz, G.M., & Ianacone, R. N. (1988). Service coordination between correctional and public school systems for handicapped juvenile offenders. Exceptional Children, 55, 66-70.

Pollard, R., Pollard, C., Rojewski, J., & Meers, G. (1997). Adjudicated youth with disabilities: Transition strategies in correctional environments. Journal of Correctional Education, 48, 127-134.

Rutherford, R. B., Nelson, C.M., & Wolford, B. I. (1986). Special education programming in juvenile corrections. Remedial and Special Education, 7, 27-33.

Stephens, R. D., & Arnette, J. L. (2000). From the courthouse to the schoolhouse: Making successful transitions. Washington, D. C.: U. S. Department of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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