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Transition to Adulthood

The Big Picture

What Does “Transition” Mean?

A “transition” is a Movement, Passage, or Change from One Position to Another

The word “transition” is often used in human services to refer to the general process of someone moving, or being moved, from one set of services to another.

In common English, a “transition” is a movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another.

What does transition mean?

What does “transition” mean?

The word comes from a Latin word “transire,” which means to go across, and often refers to the process, not the end result. Thus, “transitioning” is the act of making a change, of going from one set of characteristics or circumstances to another. It may not be instantaneous; more often, a series of steps or phases will be involved.

In the context of this website, the Multiple Systems Navigator, “transition” can refer to going from child-serving program(s) to adult-serving program(s), school to work, group residence to independent living, juvenile justice to adult correctional system, guardianship to emancipation, and other scenarios in which responsibilities change hands.

Keep in mind that transition to life as an adult can occur gradually or abruptly. However, in most cases, advance planning leads to better outcomes.

Formal transition planning is required by law in regard to foster care, juvenile justice, special education, and other program placements.

Transition is a Process

It is important for you to know that transition to adulthood is a process, not a series of discrete events. Transition to adulthood may be achieved in many different ways and time-frames. Transition to adulthood for people with learning difficulties may take significantly longer than for other young people and 'markers' of adult status may continue to be achieved throughout life, not just between the ages of 14-25.

You need to think about work; going to college; where to live; handling money; friends; relationships; safety; being in charge of your life; your rights and responsibilities; living independently; living a healthy lifestyle; and having fun.


Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council