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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition

Transition Team Development and Facilitation

Background on Interagency Transition Teams

Beginning in the late 1980s and continuing through the 1990s, interagency transition teams were widespread, generating information and strategies that are useful now as important examples of both effective and ineffective interagency teaming (Blalock & Benz, 1999; Blalock, 1996; Everson & Guillory, 1998; Halpern, Benz, & Lindstrom, 1992). Over the years, interagency transition teams have continued to function with varying degrees of success. Those that have not attained a level of desired success might not have generated appropriate membership, elicited the desired level of commitment, implemented guidelines on how to operate, or conveyed an understanding of what they were convened to do. These kinds of problems often result in poor meeting attendance and a lack of overall participation.

In some states, new and renewed interagency transition teams are now being mobilized. Both those who are returning to the process of interagency teaming, and those who are attempting to revitalize their interagency transition teams can benefit from the experience gained over the last decade, as well as from the wealth of knowledge generated prior to 1995 and presented as concisely as possible in this Essential Tool.

What are Interagency Transition Teams?

An interagency transition team brings together a variety of stakeholders who are supporting youth with disabilities so they can have the best chances for success as adults. Because states most often deliver services through agencies designed to meet a specific set of outcomes – e.g., state departments of education are concerned with educational outcomes and departments of health are concerned with health outcomes – interagency teams at the state level are often comprised of representatives of all agencies involved in preparing, connecting, and receiving youth with disabilities as they transition from secondary school to postschool environments. At community or school levels, individuals representing these needs are more likely to be on those teams.

Interagency teams serve varied purposes. These are to:

  • Identify local needs or discontinuity in policies, procedures, services, and programs that hinder youth with disabilities from achieving desired, valued outcomes;
  • Increase the availability, access, and quality of interagency transition services through the development and improvement of policies, procedures, systems, funding, and other mechanisms for providing seamless transition services to youth with disabilities and their families;
  • Help other service representatives understand the educational service system including laws, regulations, and policies related to transition services; roles and responsibilities of families and district personnel; roles of local or regional interagency planning teams; and roles now expected of other service agencies involved in the transition process; and
  • Enable youth with disabilities to live, work, and continue to learn in the community, with supports if necessary, as adults.

Why Interagency Transition Teams Exist

State and local interagency committees focused on transition have emerged and expanded due to several factors. First, it just makes good sense for professionals to work collaboratively to provide and coordinate services for youth with disabilities. Second, federal legislation in the fields of education, employment, health, mental health, and others have strongly encouraged cross-agency collaboration in addressing individual and family needs. Finally, families are increasingly requesting help from schools and adult service providers in arranging for and coordinating community services needed by their child as he/she transitions from school to adult life.

The multi-faceted needs of individuals with disabilities led to the belief that effective interagency transition would require collaboration. So, interagency transition services became a coordinated set of activities designed to achieve specific outcomes. Individual needs are meant to be the first priority, taking into account preferences, potential, abilities, and interests. The goal of transition services is to develop the linkages and skills necessary for success in postsecondary education, adult education and training, adult services, independent living, community participation, a specific job or career, and/or integrated community living.

Transition planning and services are required by federal and state laws. Such services are intended to prepare individuals with disabilities to live, learn, and earn in the community as adults. For some students this could mean that while they are still in school certain skills may be emphasized that will not be needed until leaving school. Transition planning and services target students still in school as well as those who have dropped out or who may be incarcerated in a juvenile or adult facility (NCSET, 2002).

The following are some of the benefits successful interagency transition teams offer to a diverse group of agencies, organizations, families, and individuals:

  • State agencies working together may discover common, cross-agency goals and how they can work in concert toward addressing the needs of youth with disabilities.
  • State agencies will recognize what other agency services are available in their states.
  • State agencies will also learn which services are lacking in their states.
  • State agencies and district personnel can develop and implement action plans to accomplish team objectives.
  • State agencies, district personnel, family members, and students may benefit from new services and activities, as well as new connections to existing services.
  • State agencies, district personnel, family members, and students can build trust and supportive linkages between sometime adversaries.
  • State agencies, district personnel, family members, and students will all have an opportunity to understand different agency cultures and requirements.
  • District personnel, family members, and students may discover peer support among team members.
  • District personnel will be better able to prioritize needed services.
  • District personnel will better understand how different agencies and groups operate and who (or what) drives their objectives.
  • Family members and students may attain team outcomes that they are unable to accomplish through their own individual efforts.

Ensuring Evidence-Based Practices are Presented

This Essential Tool is intended to be illustrative of interagency team practices and procedures and is based on available research, literature, and personal correspondence with members of interagency transition teams. A Web-based search using Google and Yahoo search engines was conducted to uncover information about state interagency transition teams. Searches using sample key words were conducted, with the following results:

“Transition teams” – 266 Google returns; 10,700 Yahoo returns
“Interagency transition teams” – 81 Google returns; 77 Yahoo returns
“State-level transition teams” – 2 Google returns; 2 Yahoo returns
“Using teams in the transition process” – no returns Google or Yahoo
“Membership of interagency transition teams” – neither Google nor Yahoo returns
“Issues considered by transition teams” – neither Google nor Yahoo returns

While a Web-based search for information on transition teams returned many results, as the search terms became more narrowly defined, data became sparse. A search for “interagency transition teams” yielded limited returns. While much activity has occurred with interagency transition teams over the years, little has been written or published about how such teams worked and what contributed to their effectiveness. A good example of this is the work of the Connecticut Interagency State Transition Team. While this state program is cited later in the document as an example of an excellent interagency transition team, nothing about the team has been written. The agency does not have a Web site; information we received was obtained through personal correspondence and discussion.

Other resources employed to conduct a literature search for this Essential Tool were:

  1. Integrative review of papers and studies addressing interagency transition teaming to assist youth with disabilities in secondary school, transition, and postschool environments as described in documents and professional journals (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2004). Computerized searches were conducted of numerous documents and online databases including the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), Psychological Abstracts, and Education Abstracts. Search terms included: transition teams, interagency transition teams, using teams in the transition process, state-level transition teams, membership of interagency transition teams, and issues considered by transition teams.
  2. Search and analysis of federal policy documents focused on interagency transition teaming to assist youth with disabilities transitioning from secondary school to postschool environments. Documents, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), were searched and analyzed for common and discrepant language influencing the delivery and coordination of transition services within secondary schools and postschool settings. Additional documents discussing federal policy impacts upon youth with disabilities making the transition from secondary school to postschool settings were reviewed, including Collet-Klingenberg’s The Reality of Best Practices in Transition: A Case Study (1998) and Blalock’s Community Transition Teams as the Foundation for Transition Services for Youth With Learning Disabilities (1996).
    Full citations for these and other articles are included in the references section.
  3. Web-based search for documents on transition services produced by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education; the National Institutes for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR); and the Institute of Education Sciences (formerly OERI). Project staff conducted a Web-based search for interagency transition team model programs funded by OSEP, NIDRR, and the Institute of Education Sciences.

A thorough search of the above documents as well as numerous contacts with persons working in the field of transition revealed a pattern of difficulty in forming and maintaining successful state interagency transition teams. In Section IV, the authors have included examples of four states that are doing an admirable job of conducting interagency teams with positive outcomes.

Each state is at a different phase in this process. For example, Arizona is in the process of re-grouping from more local-oriented teams to a state team. Connecticut has worked through a committee format that has sparked numerous accomplishments. Pennsylvania and Colorado also have many achievements, but differ in their organization from one another and the aforementioned states.

Table of Contents

Cover Page


Background on Interagency Transition Teams

Four Tools for Interagency Transition Teams
Overview/Introductory Tool: Using Teaming Principles to Guide Your Work
Tool 1: How to Build an Effective Interagency Transition Team
Tool 2: How to Determine Initial Roles, Responsibilities, and the Team Vision
Tool 3: How to Conduct Interagency Transition Team Meetings
Tool 4: Knowing if Your Interagency Transition Team is On-Track and Meeting its Goals

Examples of Evidence-Based Models of Interagency Transition Teams


Additional Resources

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Citation: Stodden, R. A., Brown, S. E., Galloway, L. M., Mrazek, S., & Noy, L. (2004). Essential tools: Interagency transition team development and facilitation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition.

Permission is granted to duplicate this publication in its entirety or portions thereof. Upon request, this publication will be made available in alternative formats. For additional copies of this publication, or to request an alternate format, please contact: Institute on Community Integration Publications Office, 109 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, (612) 624-4512, icipub@umn.edu.

This document was published by the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). NCSET is supported through a cooperative agreement #H326J000005 with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education Programs, and no official endorsement should be inferred. The University of Minnesota, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition are equal opportunity employers and educators.