Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Turning 21

August 6, 2018
Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Turning 21

Transitioning To the Adult Service System in NJ

Individuals in New Jersey who have a developmental disability and are turning 21 will transition to a vastly different system than the ones that served them as children. Individuals under twenty-one are served by the Department of Children and Families. They also receive special education services under the Department of Education – a federally mandated entitlement.  There are no entitlements for services for individuals over twenty-one. Eligible individuals with developmental disabilities over twenty-one may receive a wide variety of services from the Division of Developmental Disabilities dependent on available funding.

The transition to the adult service system is a process with multiple steps and requirements that will unfold over a number of months. If you start early and go step by step, you should be able to make a smooth transition. Here is what you need to know and do to get ready for the switch if your 21st birthday falls between September 2018 and August 2019.  (It is important to note that DDD will not begin providing supports until your educational entitlement has run out – the first June following your 21st birthday – regardless of whether you are still in school or not.)

Turning 21 in July 2019 or August 2019

  • If you plan to remain in school for as long as your federal entitlement lasts, you will be eligible for another year of school.
  • If you plan to leave school before you turn 21, a support coordinator will be assigned as soon as you turn 21 and have completed the necessary documentation (see below)

Turning 21 between September 2018 and March 2019

  • If you will be in school until June of 2019, follow the instructions outlined below to complete the transition. A Support Coordinator will be assigned to you in April 2019.
  • If you will be out of school when you turn 21, follow the instructions below and a Support Coordinator will be assigned to you as soon as you turn 21.

Turning 21 between April 2019 and June 2019

  • Follow the instructions as outlined below. A Support Coordinator will be assigned to you in April 2019.

What you need to do to during the transition:

Complete eligibility documentation

Between your 18th birthday and January of the year you’ll be turning 21

  • Make sure that you are eligible for DDD services
  • Make sure that you are eligible for Medicaid
    • If you already receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) you are automatically eligible for Medicaid in NJ
    • If you do not receive SSI, you will need to apply for benefits at your local Social Security office.
    • If you are having difficulty with the process or are hitting roadblocks, you can find out more about eligibility at or by completing the Medicaid Eligibility Troubleshooting Form (can be found on the previously noted website) and sending it to [email protected]
  • Complete an assessment – NJ Comprehensive Assessment Tool
    • Access the assessment by contacting your DDD Community Services Office and complete it by phone or online.
    • Complete the assessment no more than nine months before you turn 21 in order to capture the most current assessment of your support needs.

Plan for your future

There is a lot to consider when planning your adult life – housing, employment, post secondary education, self-direction, guardianship, financial planning, legal planning, self-advocacy, health, and family/friend relationships.

  • The Planning for Adult Life project offers training sessions, webinars, resources, and groups for both individuals and parents to explore their options.
  • Check out DDD’s Person-Centered Planning Tool. It will help you think through what you want your adult life to include and what supports you will need to achieve your goals.
  • Start exploring support coordination agency choices. You can find out more about selecting a support coordination agency in a prior blog post.
  • You can use the same exploration process for finding service providers. Go to the Provider Search Database where you can search by service and county served.

Select your Support Coordination Agency

In February or March of 2019

  • Select two agencies. There is a chance that your first choice may not have an opening.  Or, you can allow DDD to auto-assign an agency for you
  • Complete the Support Coordination Selection Form. You can find a link to the form on this page.
  • Submit form to [email protected].

Start working with your Support Coordinator

In April 2019 a Support Coordinator will be assigned to you

  • Once assigned, a Support Coordinator can begin the planning process by attending exit IEP meetings at your school
  • Begin developing your Individualized Service Plan (ISP) with your planning team (individual, support coordinator, family, school staff, providers)
  • IMPORTANT: Complete the ISP before graduation to assure that services will be available as soon as school ends.

We all resist change and this transition to a new service system at 21 is a big one.  The support coordinator assigned to you should be a resource for information that will help you understand this new system.  She should also be able to suggest parent groups, mentors, and advocacy groups that can be excellent partners in navigating this unfamiliar system.  For more information about the adult system of services in New Jersey, check out some of our previous blog posts.