The transition for students with special needs from the school system to the adult service system is a critical time. Students and their families need to be prepared for the changes and challenges that lie ahead. It’s not always easy to take the next step from the special education system to post-secondary education, internships and employment, independent living services, and entering adulthood.
We suggest five main areas to address a student’s transition to becoming an adult:
1. Get to know the student’s skills and preferences.
2. Identify the student’s adulthood goals and dreams.
3. Build new skills needed to achieve adulthood goals.
4. Make connections, identify and understand supports, and use resources.
5. Keep the process moving forward.
Adults with special needs who are 21 or older and living in New Jersey also need to adjust to how they receive certain state benefits. The New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) provides public funding for services and supports to help these adults live as independently as possible. So adults at this age and their caregivers should be informed of the DDD eligibility requirements in New Jersey.
In order to receive DDD funded support coordination services to gain access to valuable programs and state services, adult individuals must meet the following three eligibility criteria:
1. Functional criteria of having a developmental disability. More specifically, individuals must prove that they have had a chronic physical and/or intellectual disability that manifested in the developmental years prior to age 22. The disability must be lifelong in nature and substantially limit him or her in at least three of these areas of life activity: self-care, learning, mobility, communication, self-direction, economic self-sufficiency, and the ability to live independently.
2. Medicaid eligibility and maintaining Medicaid eligibility. A caregiver can complete a Medicaid application for a loved one as his or her designated authorized representative. This is done by using only the individual’s own financial and employment documents so that no additional sources of income affect the loved one’s ability to qualify for Medicaid.
3. State residency by establishing that New Jersey is the individual’s primary residence at the time of the application. In order to prove that the individual is a resident of the state, he or she will need photocopies of their birth certificate, proof of citizenship through a social security card or green card, as well as one of the following: Voter registration card, pay stub, W2 form, real estate tax bill, or if in the military, a permanent change of station order to New Jersey.
For assistance with the DDD Eligibility Requirements in New Jersey contact the Intake Unit within the individual’s DDD Community Service Office (CSO). You can find a list of the nine Community Services Offices in all 21 New Jersey Counties here. An individual with special needs who meets these eligibility criteria will need to fill out an Application for Determination of Eligibility for Services.
Even though DDD services won’t begin to take effect until an individual is at least 21 years old, it is possible to apply at the age of 18 to be evaluated by the DDD for functional eligibility for services. To be evaluated for eligibility for DDD-funded services, you can complete the Full Application for Eligibility from the New Jersey Department of Human Services website. There is also a Short Application for Eligibility for individuals who are 18 or older and were previously determined eligible for developmental disability services through PerformCare.
The instructions on how to submit the application with all required documents are written on the packet instructions. There are several documents that need to be included such as IDs to prove one’s age, citizenship, and New Jersey residency, as well as several medical records.
The completed Application for Eligibility, including all signed forms and related documentation, must be mailed to the Community Services Office that serves the applicant’s county of residence. If you have any questions or run into problems with any of the steps of the DDD eligibility process, you can contact the Community Service Office that serves your county in which you live. A DDD intake worker will help guide you through the application process.
After the application has been approved as a part of the DDD eligibility requirements in New Jersey, you need to take the NJ CAT assessment. The NJ CAT is a mandatory needs-based assessment that determines an individual’s eligibility/tier to receive DDD funded services. During the intake process, the individual’s caregiver must complete the NJ CAT assessment which is administered by a trained DDD facilitator. The caregiver should be someone who knows the individual best (i.e., family member, guardian, residential staff). The Rutgers University Developmental Disabilities Planning Institute (DDPI) conducts the NJ CAT assessment on behalf of DDD. It can either be completed online, through a phone conversation, or in person. This survey is used to determine needed post-secondary supports and to assign an individualized budget for services.
The following are assessed:
These are some examples of questions that need to be answered by a caregiver on behalf of his or her loved one:
Here are some examples of answer choices:
Fortunately, a sample NJ CAT in English and sample NJ CAT in Spanish can be downloaded and viewed prior to taking the in-person assessment. We recommend that you review the assessment’s questions prior to completing it with a DDD facilitator.
After the NJ CAT assessment is completed, the results are summarized into a score based on three main areas:
The individual is assigned a tier (i.e., Aa, B, Ca, D, E) based on his or her needs. And each tier has a budget that includes the following components:
Here are some Tier Assignment and Budget examples:
Once an individual has been assigned a budget for DDD services, he or she may now choose a Support Coordination Agency to work with. This choice can be made by the individual or guardian/family member completing and submitting a Support Coordination Agency Selection Form, which can be found here. Another option is for DDD to auto-assign an agency to the individual seeking support.
As soon as the individual is assigned to an agency and Support Coordinator (SC), the SC will contact the individual or caregiver and schedule an intake meeting. During the meeting, the individual and guardian/family member will sign the Participant Enrollment Agreement.
As a part of the process, the SC will:
After the meeting, the SC will input information into iRecord and draft an Individualized Service Plan (ISP) with guidance from the individual and guardian/family member. This plan will include the outcomes and services necessary to meet the needs of the individual. Once the ISP is approved by the guardian/family member, then the services can officially begin for the client. The SC maintains monthly contact with the individual and guardian/family member (if applicable), or more often as needed.
Note: You can always change agencies but because the rate for Support Coordinator services is determined monthly, an individual must commit to a calendar month of services from an agency before they make a change.
Here is a list of some of the types of support services available:
Finally, here are some examples of annual budget allocations for clients: