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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Aligning School & Community Resources

Frequently Asked Questions


How does the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) support improved service coordination?

The IDEA requires formal and systematic transition planning services for students with disabilities. This planning is accomplished by local interagency transition teams who create an Individual Education Program (IEP) for each eligible student. A statement of transition service needs must be included in each student’s IEP beginning at age 14 (or younger if deemed appropriate). This statement must include, when appropriate, a statement of interagency responsibilities or any needed linkages. Specifically, IDEA requires the sharing of transition programming responsibilities among special, vocational, and general educators, employment specialists, and specialists in vocational rehabilitation, postsecondary education, social services, and mental health. Interagency coordination and alignment of services is a critical component in helping youth with disabilities make a successful transition to adult roles.

What resources can and should be aligned in a community to ensure that youth with disabilities have full access to the services and supports needed for transition?

There are a myriad of available funding streams, legislation, and resources a community can and should align in order to meet the needs of transition-aged youth with disabilities. Some of these include:

  • Education. Various education agencies offer programs including general education, special education, postsecondary education, and vocational education and training, to name a few.
  • Health and Human Services. Governmental programs and services under Health and Human Services can provide resources regarding Medicare, Healthy and Ready-to-Work programs, mental health, and protection and advocacy. Other resources can be found within developmental disability councils.
  • Workforce Development. Resources under this agency focus on training, employment programs, and service options for youth, including youth with disabilities. Examples of workforce development resources include such model programs as Job Corps and the opportunities available under the Workforce Investment Act. Other opportunities include those provided by employers, business associations, and labor unions.
  • Social Security. Local Social Security Administration offices offer programs and services for youth receiving Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These programs also offer resources that can be accessed and aligned to meet the transition needs of youth with disabilities.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services. These agencies offer an array of services for people with disabilities, including career guidance and counseling, vocational evaluation, vocational training, job placement, and follow-up services.
  • Parents and Families. Parents and families have a vested interest in seeing the alignment of community resources. Typically, the family has the experience of assisting the child through the entire transition process.
  • Youth. Youth should always have a voice in the design of initiatives that center around their needs. They, like parents and family, have a unique and valued perspective.

This list is not exhaustive, as resources vary from community to community. Communities can also access programs provided by agencies for independent living, juvenile justice, transportation, agriculture, and other agencies.

How can school and community services be better coordinated?

This coordination can be achieved through resource mapping, a method used to link and align community resources with organizational goals, strategies, and expected outcomes. As a result of mapping and aligning resources, there can be better service coordination in the community.

Resource mapping is a collaborative activity in which a variety of informed partners:

  • establish a shared vision, definition, priorities, and desired results;
  • identify all complementary resources from multiple sources that can be aligned to accomplish a vision;
  • note any priorities that lack resources and then design solutions to fill those gaps; and
  • implement an ongoing process that maximizes all relevant resources by employing them in a strategic way to accomplish common goals.

Resource mapping allows communities to identify existing resources and determine what new resources are needed to build systems that serve youth rather than targeting funds based on criteria and categories. The process helps agencies and programs that share common goals to begin a dialogue and build on each other’s efforts instead of working in isolation. Furthermore, mapping resources can help a community identify a need for additional policy or legislation to fill a gap or enhance an existing program.

What are the benefits of aligning school and community resources?

The benefits of resource mapping are many. As a result of taking part in this process, a community can develop a comprehensive youth system so that every young person can access the services that allow him or her to lead a productive and full life. Specifically, the resource mapping process can help a community:

  • gain in-depth information about an agency’s policies, procedures, funding streams, and collaborative practices;
  • identify opportunities and challenges for meeting the transition needs of youth with disabilities; and
  • provide a comprehensive set of policy recommendations across agencies and opportunities for interagency collaboration.

Other benefits of resource mapping include:

  • identification of new resources to develop, enhance, and sustain goals;
  • determination of whether existing resources are being used effectively to achieve expected outcomes;
  • improved alignment and coordination of resources;
  • enhanced coordination and collaboration among those with relevant resources; and
  • development of new policies and legislation to better meet goals and objectives.

Why is it so important to establish a vision statement at the beginning, and to develop goals to guide the resource mapping process?

There is no point in engaging in resource mapping if you do not have a clear vision of what you hope to gain through the mapping process. An established vision helps to determine the resources needed.

First, a vision statement provides a touchstone to which an organization can continually refer. A vision statement establishes the reasons for a resource mapping collaboration and describes why coordinating and aligning resources is necessary. Second, the vision statement determines organizational goals, partnerships, and strategies to meet objectives. Finally, a good vision statement helps outsiders understand the purpose of resource mapping and offers compelling reasons for them to get involved.

All stakeholders should be involved in establishing the vision statement, even though this may take some time. The resource mapping process brings together community agencies around a common vision and goals. Working together, key community partners identify those resources — whether human, fiscal, or programmatic — that best meet their vision and goals. The process is ongoing and needs to be continually monitored.

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This page was last updated on November 29, 2017.