Transition Issues in Early Childhood Settings in North Dakota (FS1964, Sept. 2020)

Transition issues and processes are important to consider for the well-being of young children and their families between birth and five years of age. This report reviews findings from research in North Dakota on transition issues in early childhood settings, challenges and resources across the state.

Sean E. Brotherson, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Family Science Specialist, NDSU

Divya Saxena, M.S., Extension Associate, NDSU; Shea Lammers, M.S., Extension Associate, NDSU; Kimberly Bushaw, M.S., Extension Family Science Specialist, NDSU



North Dakota State University Authors and Contact Information

• Sean E. Brotherson, Ph.D., Professor and Extension Family Science Specialist, Department of Human Development and Family Science – NDSU Extension; email:

• Divya Saxena, M.S., Extension Associate, NDSU Extension; email:

• Shea Lammers, M.S., Extension Associate, NDSU Extension; email:

• Kimberly Bushaw, M.S., Extension Family Science Specialist, NDSU Extension; email:


Teacher with group of young children


Collaboration among the State of North Dakota, NDSU Extension and the North Dakota Parent Education Network made this project and study possible. The goal of this project, which was undertaken to fulfill objectives associated with the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5) federal grant, was to expand understanding of issues related to transitions in early childhood settings in North Dakota. Multiple focus groups consisting of early childhood professionals and parents were conducted to gain a better understanding of contemporary transition concerns and resources in early childhood settings in North Dakota. Further, a parent feedback survey was employed to gather additional information on transition issues. Finally, a menu of resources for supporting transitions in early childhood settings was created.

We would like to thank the State of North Dakota for allowing us the opportunity to aid in conducting research on this pertinent topic. Work on this project was conducted in association with ND DPI Contract No. 3485, a subcontract extended to NDSU Extension as part of a competitive federal grant received by North Dakota in 2019 to focus on improvements to the state’s existing early childhood infrastructure and resources. Specifically, work on this project was associated with Goals 3.9 and 4.1 in the overall project. Goal 3.9 is: “Provide resources to families regarding transitions in the Birth-5 ECE mixed delivery system.” Goal 4.1 is: “Create transition materials based on best practices to meet transition needs in Birth-5 ECE.”

Additionally, we extend our thanks to the early childhood professionals and parents who participated in this study. Their insight and perspective on the topic of transition issues in early childhood settings and related concerns provided valuable contributions regarding this topic in North Dakota. With this study and report, we aspire to enhance the lives of families with young children in North Dakota.

A special thank you goes to the program coordinators of the North Dakota Parent Education Network who aided in recruitment of participants and organization of the focus group sites:

• Laura Knox, Region 4, Extension Parent Educator/Coordinator

• Amy Tichy, Region 6, Extension Parent Educator/Coordinator

• Debra Theurer, Region 8, Extension Parent Educator/Coordinator

• Stacy Kilwein, Region 8, Partners in Parenting Coordinator, Dickinson Public Schools

Mom holding infant being kissed by older brother

Executive Summary

The period of development from a child’s birth through age 5 is a time of critical learning and experience that shapes a child’s future. In particular, it is important to consider how early childhood education programs and resources can assist young children and their families in navigating the challenging transitions that occur during a child’s early years.

In early 2019, the state of North Dakota was awarded a Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5), a competitive federal grant intended to improve states’ existing early childhood infrastructure and resources. NDSU Extension was responsible for leading and coordinating efforts to complete a portion of the work for Goal 3.9, “Provide resources to families regarding transitions in the Birth-5 ECE mixed delivery system,” and also Goal 4.1, “Create transition materials based on best practices to meet transition needs in Birth-5 ECE.”

The Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC), associated with the federal Office of Head Start in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), notes that transitions in a child’s early years are of vital importance. It states: “Children experience many transitions, including from home to an early care and education setting, between age groups or program settings, and from preschool to kindergarten. Supporting these transitions for children, families, and staff is critically important because even positive change can be challenging. How the foundation for positive transitions is laid across all levels of the system to support children, families, and staff through transitions can have far-reaching effects on children’s well-being and academic success.” Supporting children and their families as they navigate such transitions is a key element of effectiveness in early childhood education systems.

Among its multiple priorities, the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five that was awarded by the federal government to the state of North Dakota incorporated attentiveness to issues associated with transitions for young children and their families. At the end of 2019, 24 participants in varying roles (for example, parents and early childhood professionals) participated in three focus groups at different sites across the state and explored issues and strategies related to transition processes and resources for young children and their families. The participants included a mix of parents and early childhood professionals in various contexts.

In the focus group discussions, participants often referred broadly to services for young children, referring to the range of options that exist for conducting early intervention efforts including private therapeutic providers, special education, and other supports. Also, they at times specifically discussed the Early Intervention program in the state of North Dakota that operates under IDEA, Part C legislation, which is a specific program that uses a home-based visiting model for children with identified needs from the ages of 0 to 3 (known as the North Dakota Early Intervention System). We have tried to clearly distinguish between broader references to early intervention efforts and the specific Early Intervention (EI) program operated in North Dakota under IDEA, Part C.

The focus group results indicate that participants had wide-ranging awareness of critical transition experiences for young children from birth to 5 years of age. Further, they discussed a variety of strategies for navigating transitions across the landscape of early childhood contexts. Other major topics explored were challenges in coordinating services among agencies, limitations in the current child-care system and awareness of available transition resources in North Dakota. Listed below are the key points that were identified through thematic analysis of the focus group discussions:

1. Children and families experience several critical transition experiences between birth and 5 years of age. Critical transition experiences that participants discussed were the transition from hospital to home and NICU issues, involvement in a range of early intervention experiences, entry to child care and transitions between child-care settings, and entry into preschool or kindergarten.

2. Several strategies are important for effectively navigating transitions across the landscape of early childhood contexts. Key strategies explored by participants were continuity of care across transitions and settings, communication among those involved across settings, the value of child trauma training in supporting children, and usage of systematic processes for helping all involved with transitions.

3. Particular challenges exist in the coordination of services among agencies and community programs as children experience transitions. Such challenges include limitations in the availability of child-care options, other child-care concerns such as staff turnover or access issues, concerns about early intervention and health-care resource coordination, and a variety of other fundamental concerns.

4. Limitations in the existing child-care system and the effect on healthy transitions was another common theme discussed. Particular limitations identified were the difficulties in bridging particular services with child-care or school settings, teachers overwhelmed by limited resources, stigma issues that limit usage of support for transitions and budget shortages in the child-care system.

5. Awareness of existing transition resources among participants varied widely. Topics of importance were overcoming lack of awareness about transition resources, strategies for increasing awareness and methods for promoting transition resources.

In addition to these major thematic findings, this report includes a brief summary of results from a parent feedback survey on transition topics in early childhood with 175 North Dakota participants (see Section Two). Finally, the report concludes with a menu of resources for supporting children and families during transitions in the early childhood period that were gathered through a limited review of key resources on the topic of transitions in ECE.

Teacher with two children at school


Section One: Transition Issues in Early Childhood Settings – A Summary of Focus Group Themes


In early 2019, the state of North Dakota was awarded a Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5), a competitive federal grant intended to improve states’ existing early childhood infrastructure and resources. The planning grant of the PDG B-5 focuses on state-level needs assessments and strategic planning to optimize existing early childhood education (ECE) resources. The three primary activities are maximizing parental choice, improving transitions within early care and learning programs, and improving overall quality of ECE programs.

NDSU Extension was responsible for leading and coordinating efforts to complete the work for three specific goals (Goal 3.9; Goal 3.10; Goal 4.1) identified in the overall ND PDG B-5 grant. To accomplish these efforts, multiple work activities were planned and conducted to achieve the specific goals outlined in the scope of work. As part of Goal 3.9 (“Provide resources to families regarding transitions in the B-5 ECE mixed delivery system”) and also Goal 4.1 (“Create transition materials based on best practices to meet transition needs in B-5 ECE”), the following activities were listed:

• Assess current transition resources for families regarding transition in the B-5 ECE mixed delivery system; explore if families are using such resources, and also what resources would be helpful to families; aid in redesign of transition resources as needed. (Goal 3.9)

• Conduct two focus groups (five to six per focus group) on transition resources and processes with families and B-5 ECE professionals; summarize feedback and results. (Goal 3.9)

• Conduct two focus groups (five to six per focus group) on transition resources and needed revisions or additions to resource materials with families and B-5 ECE professionals; summarize feedback and results.

In carrying out these work activities, multiple focus groups were conducted to examine issues and resources related to transitions in early childhood with families and B-5 ECE professionals. This section of the final report provides a summary of key thematic findings related to the topic of transitions in early childhood settings in North Dakota.

Site Locations, Participants and Analysis

Participants in the in-depth focus groups in North Dakota that focused on Transitions (Goals 3.9 and 4.1) were involved at three different sites across the state in November-December 2019. A total of 24 individuals participated in three focus group interviews: (1) Grand Forks, N.D.—10 participants; (2) Valley City, N.D.—nine participants; and (3) Dickinson, N.D.—five participants. Participants consisted of one male and 23 females. Also, the groups were a mix of parents and early childhood professionals in various contexts. The early childhood professionals worked in settings including child care, Early Head Start and Head Start, Early Intervention services, Special Education, public health, school counseling and family services.

The focus groups were audio-recorded and the files were transcribed for purposes of analysis and feedback. Each focus group was led by two individuals, one of whom led the participant group discussion and one of whom focused on note-taking and recording of the discussion. Each focus group typically lasted one hour to 1½ hours. Child care was provided to assist with participation and participants were compensated for their involvement in the focus group discussion.

Once the audio files for each focus group were transcribed, the NDSU Extension staff went through a two-stage coding process to identify and synthesize major and minor themes that emerged from the focus group discussions. An initial coding effort was made by a staff member to identify major themes and supporting themes in the focus group feedback using a process of thematic qualitative analysis.

Then a second process of coding and refining the emergent themes was conducted independently by a second staff member. These efforts were combined into a final document and reviewed by all members of the NDSU Extension research team. This thematic assessment resulted in a variety of major themes and supporting themes across the entire set of focus groups. These themes were identified and are represented in the report that follows.

Focus Group Questions

The questions below were used to guide the discussion with focus group participants regarding transitions during early childhood in North Dakota.

We are going to talk about transitions today. “Transition” means changing from one place, stage or system. For example: a child transitioning from the hospital to home; a child transitioning from early intervention services to Head Start or preschool; a child transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. Your feedback will help us better understand issues related to transition concerns and resources with your child’s early childhood settings.

1) Introductions: Name. Tell us anything you want us to know about you, your kids and are you here as a parent, as a professional or both roles? Also, why did you choose to participate in the focus group today?

2) People choose services for a variety of reasons such as location, quality, affordability, recommendations and availability. What key factors affected your choice of the following:

• Hospital/health-care services

• Child care, preschool or kindergarten

3) What are some examples of the most successful ways to navigate these transitions? Please indicate if you have experiences with any of the following transitions and would like to share:

• Bringing your child home from the NICU

• Placing your child in a child care (either home or center-based)

• Child transitioning to a different room in child care

• Child transitioning to a different child-care provider

• Placing your child in preschool

• Placing your child in Early Head Start or Head Start

• Beginning Early Intervention Services (birth through 2 years)

• Transitioning out of Early Intervention Services into Preschool Special Education

• Transitioning out of Early Intervention Services into other preschool or child care

• Transitioning your child into kindergarten

• Transition of staff in your child’s classroom

4) What is the quality of family child-care centers in your area?

• Do they need some adjustments or alterations?

• Are there any flaws, shortcomings or problems in the current system?

5) What are the biggest problems, barriers or challenges in coordinating services between agencies and community programs?

6) How many of you have attended early intervention and special education early childhood meetings? What special considerations for planning and conducting the meetings were observed?

7) How many of you are aware of the following resources developed by the state of North Dakota?

a. Understanding Early Childhood Transition: A Guide for Families and Professionals

b. Head Start Resources to Guide Families with Transitions

c. Child Care Aware website

8) At what age of your child would resources on transitions be more valuable? Birth to 12 months? One to 3 years? Four to 5 years?

On the communication gap between parents and child-care providers – “I think communication is so important, particularly for parents. We need to know the child to answer the questions by the parents, that willingness to be open and share on both sides.” (participant, Grand Forks focus group on transitions)

Key Themes and Supporting Themes on Transitions in Early Childhood

The themes outlined here emerged from an analysis of the discussion and feedback provided by participants in three focus groups on the topic of transitions in early childhood settings in North Dakota. Some thematic elements are repeated across different topics if they were mentioned in response to multiple questions.

Topic One - Awareness of Critical Transition Experiences From Birth to Age 5

Theme 1.1 — The Transition From Hospital to Home

Key Finding: Families tend to struggle with a young child’s transition from hospital to home for a variety of reasons. To aid healthy transitions in this stressful time, participants illuminated a range of struggles and a desire for new opportunities that would allow for better use of transition materials or resources in this context across North Dakota.

■ Many parents feel as though they should be provided with more information during the prenatal phase of pregnancy but had a hard time finding the information they were looking for during this period. Examples of difficulties that were discussed include:

• Common Issues that come up for parents seeking information – communication gap between parents and providers; limited awareness of available resources; lack of NICU support; timing of information (when offered – right after birth); other factors.

• Communication Gap — Participants noted their frustrations with the communication gaps that often exist among health-care providers, resource centers, special education services and the parents themselves.

– Parents described their varying experiences with attempting to gain knowledge during their transition to parenthood. Those who were confident in where to find reliable information regarding transitions were often in fields related to child wellness, while those in careers unrelated to child development often had difficulties when seeking dependable information.

On the communication gap between parents and providers – “I think there are a lot of services out there from birth up to preschool but getting that information to the parent can be a real challenge.” (participant, Dickinson focus group on transitions)

 Limited Awareness of Available Resources — Unfortunately, parents are often unaware of where they should be seeking information regarding transitions and services for their young child.

– Participants indicated no awareness to limited awareness of current transition resources from the state (for example, “Understanding Early Childhood Transition” resource, Child Care Aware website, etc.).

– Participants indicated no awareness to limited awareness of current services that may aid in helping with the transition process of hospital to home (for example, W.I.C.).

 Lack of Newborn ICU Support in the Transition Process — Parents of children who experienced the newborn ICU expressed anxiety and frustration around the lack of support they felt after their child’s stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit during their transition to home.

– Additional stress is present with children who were placed in the newborn ICU as babies, which makes the child’s transition to home much more complicated for parents. Parents of these children expressed feeling lost and abandoned during their transition home (with or without their child) due to the lack of support they receive during and after that transition. Parents indicated feeling distress due to the minimal specialists available in North Dakota to answer questions regarding their NICU child in this process.

- This issue was most prevalent in the western region of North Dakota, where most available newborn ICU specialists are located in Bismarck. Because the specialists can be relatively distant from where a family is living with a NICU baby in western North Dakota, the transition may be more difficult because the helpless feeling of being hours away from a specialist for these families can be immense or overwhelming.

– Participants described a lack of reliable resources and frustration surrounding the fact that their questions must be referred to a specialist every time they have a concern. For example, parents described contacting nurse hotlines with questions, only to be told to bring their child to the emergency room due the child’s previous NICU status. Also, parents often are referred to hospitals that may be inconveniently far away from them (for example, Bismarck or Fargo) because those are the only locations that have NICU specialists.

- Participants from the Grand Forks focus group mentioned a call-in program in which a nurse would answer questions regarding NICU babies. However, they no longer have this program available but believe reinstating it could have some positive benefits for parents with a child who experiences the NICU. A nurse hotline linked to the newborn ICU experience would allow parents or others to get their simpler questions answered without being referred to proceed to the ER with their premature (or otherwise affected) baby.

• Recommendations for future support of NICU parents:

– Participants recommended implementing a peer mentor program for parents with newborn ICU babies (for example, pairing an experienced parent of a NICU baby with a new parent of a NICU baby), to provide some form of social support and peer education in this transition context.

– Participants suggested having hospitals or health-care organizations throughout the state start a newborn ICU parent social support group. Such a group would encourage parents to confide in each other about the struggles of parenting with a NICU baby and also allow for social support and education.

– Pursue or establish an additional funding opportunity that parents with NICU babies can apply for if they are in need of financial help. Oftentimes, the financial expenses associated with NICU babies are immense throughout the early portion of a child’s development and overwhelming to families.

• Timing of Receiving Information — Multiple parents described conflicts in timing when receiving information for the transition from hospital to home.

– Parents described being bombarded with information from the hospital in the form of packets and pamphlets when they were leaving to head home with their newborn child. They expressed that this is not the best time to provide information to them as they were tired from the birthing process and caring for their newborn child.

– Parents indicated that they would have preferred to receive transition information during the prenatal period of the pregnancy so they would have had more time to digest the information prior to their new child arriving.

- Some parents also expressed they would like to see more classes offered during the prenatal period that delve into more details regarding parenting best practices instead of classes solely relating to the birthing experience.

- However, other participants noted that they were aware of classes unrelated to the birthing process that are offered to prenatal parents, but they believed the information regarding these classes was not being disseminated properly due to services not suitably communicating with each other.

– When information is provided in health-care settings (baby born in hospital, etc.), what is most helpful is if the information is not just provided (for example, put in a take-home folder) but discussed in a systematic way with parents at the location or in a home-based follow-up call or visit.

On issues regarding timing of information dissemination – “If I have another baby right now, and if I get something like that right when I’m going home with my baby like that, it’s probably being thrown away.” (participant, Valley City focus group on transitions)

■ Parents provided a variety of additional suggestions for making the transition from hospital to home easier for young children and families in the future. Examples of such suggestions include:

• Better marketing of available transition resources or supports.

• Improving the organization of available resources (for example, a reference to the California Child Care Aware website was shared because a participant indicated liking this website’s clear formatting).

• Offering more “parenting best practice” classes during the prenatal period that incorporates information on the transition from hospital to home.

• Promoting public health nurse home visits with parents and newborn children, thus allowing an introduction of transition information in the comfort of their own residence.

• Putting on local events such as “Baby Fairs” that introduce knowledge about transitions, available resources and supports in a relaxed, friendly setting.

Theme 1.2 — Entry to Early Intervention Services

Key Finding: Early Intervention staff often provide a key link in helping children transition between settings; for specific families or children with identified needs, occupational therapy and audiology (hearing and speech) fields are important resources, as are support group settings.

■ For families with children who have special health-care or other needs, a variety of transitional support services already exists and these services often link with particular child or family needs or circumstances. Participants raised a variety of points illustrated below.

• Existing Support Services — Programs that assist children and families in the period of birth to 5 years that were most commonly known were, in order of awareness: (1) Right Track; (2) Information received at the hospital; (3) Gearing Up for Kindergarten; (4) Special Education Services; (5) Head Start/Early Head Start. Others mentioned were WIC, developmental screenings, and Safe Kids.

• Lack of Awareness — Multiple parents indicated they would have no idea where to start looking for needed services if their child required them during the first year of life. They also reiterated that many parents may be unaware that if a child does not qualify for services initially, this does not mean they will not qualify for services later after being screened for services again.

• Future Suggestions — Transition meetings between parents and special support service professionals were suggested. These meetings would promote additional communication regarding their child’s status and progress when facing a new transition period.

Theme 1.3 — Transitions and Other Early Learning Supports

Key Finding: Young children in need of early learning supports, such as special education services, benefit when such services are more accessible to their families. However, struggles may exist in coordinating access to these supports across different settings.

 Location and Distance Challenges — Participants indicated that often the location of special education services is problematic when they live in rural communities. Difficulties such as a long commute to a city such as Bismarck, where services are offered and finances were discussed.

 Private vs. Public Schools — Many participants expressed concern about the fact that special education services and individualized education programs (IEPs) do not transfer into the private school setting. This led to anxiety in parents as they described having to make the choice of revoking services for their child’s IEP if the private school does not offer them, or make the decision to keep their child in a public school where the typical student-to-teacher ratio is higher in classrooms.

• Communication Between Private and Public Schools — Lack of communication between private and public schools regarding special education services for children was noted by parents. They discussed the desire for this communication gap to be improved upon.

On the issue of limited specialists available — “Within our district, I think four out of the 15 schools are currently receiving [speech support] services [remotely]. I mean, it’s not like we’re getting them out of Fargo; it’s Idaho and Missouri, and so then we’re dealing with dialects and so it’s a mess. I know Dickinson is much stricter in their qualification just because of the amount of people and their caseloads and things like that. I do find that it is a little bit more lenient in some of the rural areas where we might only have a class size of 10.” (participant, Dickinson focus group on transitions)

Theme 1.4 — Entry to Child Care and Transitions Between Rooms

Key Finding: Parents often struggle to find consistent child care for their children, and some may be forced to split their children between different child-care settings due to a lack of availability. Staff also frequently change in child-care settings, thus causing the transitions to become more difficult for the children.

■ Limited availability in child-care settings is a significant problem in North Dakota.

• Parents often are required to put their child on waiting lists and pay to maintain the spot prior to the birth of their child to have the spot secured when the baby arrives.

• Many times, parents struggle to find a single child-care facility that has enough openings to take all of their children. This situation causes frustration and anxiety surrounding the potential decision to separate their children into multiple facilities or stay home with their children to provide consistent care for every child in their household.

■ Lack of an orientation process in some child-care settings can be a limitation to effective transitions for young children.

• Children and families benefit when attention is given to an orientation process that recognizes the stress of the transition experience when young children enter child care or transition between different rooms or child-care settings.

■ Transitions between rooms in child-care centers are easiest when the children have an adequate amount of time to become acclimated to their new environment.

• Participants indicated that they believed the best way to transition a child between classrooms is to make it a step-by-step process that involves the parents and occurs during a long time period.

– As an example, a child’s transition may start as early as two months before the official move between rooms and should incorporate the following:

- A meeting with parents, the child and teacher that allows for an initial introduction and information exchange.

- A family event may be included if many children are transitioning at once to foster connections in a fun atmosphere among children, parents and teachers.

- One month prior to the full transition, the child will begin gradually to spend more time in the classroom that the child will be moving to during the course of four weeks.

- Increased play time with older and younger age groups in shared spaces when appropriate (for example, gyms or outdoor play spaces within the child-care facility).

■ Child-care settings have a significant amount of turnover of staff or providers, which decreases the reliability of care for young children. This creates a major challenge for supporting children in transitions.

• Staff turnover makes transitions more difficult for children because they need to readjust to their surroundings and environment every time a new person enters their care routine. The children may become anxious when they are unsure of what to expect from the new staff member and they also must develop a relationship with the newcomer.

• Employers struggle with hiring and bringing new employees into their programs if they do not intend to stay at the facility for a long period of time. Turnover is associated with an increase in cost due to training a new team member, as well as providing effective guidance for the new member to adequately develop the skills needed to maintain a positive environment in the child-care setting.

• When a staff member retires, the opportunity to transition slowly from the veteran teacher to the newer teacher presents itself because typically months of planning and preparation are involved before a person decides to retire. In these instances, new teachers can be allowed to work alongside the older teachers and children can become slowly acclimated to the newer teacher while still in the presence of the more familiar teacher. This type of approach can aid in making the transition process much easier on the affected children.

On limited child-care spots – “I know people that have three kids in three different day cares, and I can’t even imagine. It must be a nightmare.” (participant, Grand Forks focus group on transitions)

Theme 1.5 — Entry to Preschool or Kindergarten

Key Finding: Early childhood professionals and family-serving organizations benefit as they think creatively and plan carefully to create and use supportive strategies in assisting families with the transition to a school setting.

■ A variety of supportive strategies can be utilized to create and manage the transition from child care to school. Examples of such options include:

• Connect with families and children early in the birth to age 5 time period, such as during the period of pregnancy, so that you can offer helpful information or resources and link families and their children with supportive community organizations. This also helps families become comfortable when preparing for transitions within the community early in the parenting experience.

• Help families to link with other meaningful opportunities or groups that assist with making transitions easier on children. Specifically, reach out once an activity is ended so that continuity exists in connecting with and supporting families.

• Offer the opportunity for parents to drop in or check in with their child at the most accessible times or in a flexible manner that works for the parent and the program, thus allowing the parent and the program to simultaneously help the child adjust to the change that occurred.

• Continuing persistence in providing opportunities that teach parents about the complexity surrounding a transition period for a child is important when helping families that face a variety of barriers or may struggle due to time challenges.

■ A limited range of options for affordable child care, as well as limited options for free or low-cost preschool experiences, is a major challenge in supporting children in the birth to 5 years range.

• Cost and location were factors of concern for participants because they felt like some children may be “falling through the cracks” due to financial concerns in the households.

■ Preschool or Kindergarten classrooms having an overly structured curriculum also were an issue raised by participants because they believed such approaches were often not developmentally appropriate or else forced “fast learning.”

• Parents expressed some alarm regarding the pressure of increasing academic rigor on young children. They expressed that their kids are not being provided with enough opportunities to play-learn and instead may be forced to continuously read and write throughout the day.

On learning expectations in the preschool setting – “I really want my kids to have that ability to play-learn as opposed to sitting down and looking at a book all the time.” (participant, Valley City Focus group on transitions)

• Discrepancies often exist between the learning abilities of various children throughout the preschool or kindergarten classroom. This topic was mentioned by multiple participants.

• Parents and early childhood specialists noted that children have a range of learning abilities when they transition to school, and the preschool and kindergarten teachers have a more difficult time adjusting their curriculum accordingly to meet the needs of every child.

– Participants suggested that the age ranges for preschool and kindergarten enrollment be narrowed to avoid such a wide range of learning abilities in the classroom.

• Participants discussed that challenging behavioral issues with children have been more apparent in recent years, adding another level of complexity to the task that teachers must accomplish. Providers must focus on running a successful classroom while also maintaining a positive learning environment for children with a variety of behavioral concerns.

– Teachers not only have the task of teaching a class full of young students, they also are required to track and keep data regarding the signs of possible developmental delays as best they can for each individual child. However, teachers expressed frustration with this task because obtaining special services in school is a long process and often takes months.

– The communication between education services and medical services is lacking, and therefore it requires a significant amount of time and effort for a child to obtain the special education services that the child needs.

– Trust in teachers was also discussed, and many parents mentioned they believed that teachers had an adequate grasp on how their child was doing academically as well as developmentally.

– Some parents questioned why teachers were not allowing more advanced children to aid in teaching the less advanced children the skills needed for success in the classroom.

On teachers’ roles in the transition to kindergarten – “They are working with kids at their levels the best that they can, grouping them into different groups so that they’re at the group they need to be at, but I don’t know what the answer is for that. There are kids coming into the classroom, in my opinion, with more needs emotionally and academically than I’ve seen in a long time.” (participant, Valley City focus group on transitions)

Topic Two - Successful Strategies for Navigating Transitions Across the ECE Landscape

Theme 2.1 — Continuity of Care Across Settings

Key Finding: Providing continuity of care across settings is critical for healthy transitions, including staff awareness and follow-up with families

■ Continuous check-ins (for example, daily/weekly at the beginning of a transition experience; monthly/as needed as the child becomes accustomed to the new environment) with the family and new teachers or providers can help alleviate the worry or anxiety that many parents and children experience with transitions in early childhood. In particular, this approach can benefit families with children who have special needs and the concerns they often feel surrounding major transitions.

■ Parents described an “ideal” situation as one in which their child is able to transition to preschool for half days and continue going to Head Start or child care the rest of the day. This suggestion makes the beginning of the transition easier for the children because they are still in the presence of a familiar caregiver for half of each day and generally would make the experience more positive overall.

■ When transitioning between obstetric providers and pediatricians, participants with newborn ICU babies described an easy transition when their neonatologist was present when they gave birth to their children and continued their early life care by acting as their pediatrician.

■ Continuity of care also can transfer across different children in the same household. For example, when a teacher forms a relationship with the parent of a family’s oldest child, the teacher can more easily form and maintain a relationship with the parents when their next child is taught by the same teacher.

On continuity between providers – “Even when there are multiple providers, some of the different services either do not communicate with each other or do not share with each other about different options. There may be other service options besides the [one being offered] by the hospital or [another service provider].” (participant, Dickinson focus group)

Theme 2.2 — Communication Across Early Childhood Settings

Key Finding: Communication about child needs across care settings is essential in making sure that the right support services are provided

■ Participants noted that the Department of Public Instruction does track the number of children who “transition out of early intervention services into special education services at age 3.” However, they do not track the children who do not qualify for an IEP.

• Participants suggested that tracking children who do not qualify for an IEP may be helpful for future retesting purposes.

• When this point was discussed with a PEIP (e.g., Primary Early Intervention Professional), the person disclosed that they do not track the children who are not eligible for services due to the fact that eligibility requirements for services change drastically between every year that a child is tested (for example, from age 3 to 4 and 4 to 5).

• Participants suggested that a tracking system be put in place for children who do not qualify for services but still are likely to remain at high risk for developing a delay that could adversely affect their performance in school. This way, the parents are not solely responsible for advocating to retest their child for services every year, but documentation exists that leads to the reassessment of higher risk children annually.

– It is also important to make parents aware that they are allowed to request that their children be retested for special services annually.

■ Facilitate parent-to-parent connections so that parents can share information, link each other to resources and build networks of support.

■ Communication about transition-easing opportunities is lacking between private school and child-care settings. Specifically, public programs such as Head Start often do not allow for a kindergarten visit day for private schools, as they do for public schools. However, this could be due to the private school’s orientation policy.

■ A lack of communication exists between services that a child is eligible for between private and public schools as well. Public and private schools not communicating about a specific child’s need, and which services they could acquire in each scenario, may be a detriment to a child’s development. If parents do not know that differences exist between the two education options, this could further complicate a child’s developmental trajectory.

• Parents requested a way for public and private schools to “streamline” their comparison process in order to give parents a more accurate view of the two options.

■ Participants described frustration with the lack of bridging between child-care programs that provide services and preschools that do not. For example, if a child does not qualify for services during the transition to preschool, then often no “transition bridge” exists in going from receiving services to not receiving services any longer in preschool (meaning the transition is harsh).

■ Lack of communication across settings may be due to some service providers being “territorial” about the patients they currently have. The provider may want to keep its customers and therefore may not recommend other services in the local area for which a child may be eligible, which may then further a developmental delay in a child who is not receiving proper assistance.

Theme 2.3 — Child Trauma Training for Providers

Key Finding: Involvement of ECE professionals with child trauma training helps in supporting children through transitions (or provide child trauma training to enhance ability to support children in transitions)

 Individual or family background challenges or health issues can make transition periods more difficult and may negatively influence the development of young children.

• Mental health issues (parental depression, etc.)

- Post-partum depression

- Personal anxiety; fear of asking questions

• Trauma—in the history of the parent or child

- Incarcerated parents

- Exposure to domestic violence

- Accidents (for example, house fire, car crash, etc.)

• Child health issues

- Child may have a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) health condition that limits the child’s availability to participate in transition-easing activities; parent may be occupied with providing care or support to the child; child may not be well enough to participate in certain opportunities, etc.

• Unmet economic or social support needs frustrate or limit a child’s development and navigation of transitions.

- Children who must struggle through a “gauntlet of difficult situations” on a daily or regular basis experience greater stress and challenge in their development.

• Chemical dependency of parent or child (newborn infant, etc.)

• Involvement of family in child welfare system due to issues of abuse or neglect (CPS, etc.)

• Early parenthood (teen parents, etc.) and limited resources

■ Making child trauma training available to a wide range of providers in early childhood settings can increase awareness of the difficulties that may affect a child during transitions and also enable providers in furnishing a supportive environment to children and families during significant transitions.

On awareness of child trauma – “We are seeing more of the trauma that kids are coming in with to the school settings. They may be being abused, as they’re being defiant, they are said to have ADHD or they don’t want to listen or follow. I think sometimes it’s easier, in a sense, for some people to label it that way instead of realizing that they don’t have ADD or ADHD, but instead they have trauma that they’re coming in and dealing with. We do need to learn more about being trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed, and there are lots of opportunities.” (participant, Valley City focus group)

Theme 2.4 — Utilization of a Systematic Transition Process

Key Finding: Use of a systematic and/or structured process as children experience transitions is helpful so staff, parents and children are on the same page.

■ Utilize a transition experience, such as a child’s transition to kindergarten, to engage children and families in a systematic way that eases the transition. School systems can provide a set of linked family-supportive experiences in the transition to kindergarten, such as the example that follows.

• Kindergarten Orientation – Children come for a session and go through three to four different rotations of activities with the multiple teachers, who watch and assess them for making decisions about classroom placement; parents come to the same session and do a session with the school counselor or principal on school schedule, expectations, key procedures, etc. – all of this is designed to ease the transition to kindergarten for the family members.

 Gearing Up for Kindergarten Program – Children and parents come once a week throughout a multi-week course to learn and prepare for the transition to kindergarten. During the first half of each session, caregivers and children interactively play and learn together in the school setting, while in the second half of the session, the parents and children are separated into different informational sessions.

– Comment: “As a parent, that information that you get during those parent information sessions is so invaluable going into school. It’s a valuable program for kids and for the parents.”

• Open House Experience – Following class placement decisions, families are contacted with this information and the child’s teacher is identified, then families are invited to come to an open house and visit the classroom and meet the teacher, allow the child to drop off supplies, etc. This transition experience is critical for the child because it allows the child to gain a sense of the new environment the child will be attending daily for school.

• Back to School Night – Families come at the beginning of school and get a chance to experience being in the building, find their child’s classroom, ask any questions, etc.

– This process allows multiple different opportunities for parents to come to the school setting and allows for the transition between child care or preschool and school to be less anxiety provoking for children.

• Connect with parents in small ways by greeting them as they come to a facility or classroom, helping a child transition, sharing small updates or explaining procedures for handling moments of child stress.

Topic Three - Challenges in Coordinating Transitions and Services Among Agencies and Community Programs

Theme 3.1 — Child Care Shortages and Other ECE Limitations in North Dakota

Key Finding: A shortage of child care availability, particularly spaces for specific groups (infants, special needs, etc.), for children in the period of birth to 5 years is a major challenge in supporting transitions. Also, other major limitations related to child care such as staff resources or particular policies or approaches can exacerbate transition difficulties for families with young children.

■ A shortage of available child care openings in North Dakota is a limitation and can be a barrier to successful transitions for young children.

• North Dakota has a significant shortage of child-care options for children under the age of 2 years.

– Many parents indicated that the choice of child-care setting for their child(ren) was based solely on openings that were available at the time in their area. Due to the lack of reliable child-care options, parents with no or limited choices available to them may feel a need to place children in less than optimal situations for care.

– Some parents described the economic hardship of paying to hold a spot in a child-care facility during pregnancy, and if something did not work out after birth of the child (for example, the family relocated), then the money spent holding the spot for their unborn child was unable to be reimbursed.

• The number of slots available for a child/family in particular settings (child care, public preschool, etc.) may be very limited in a community (waiting list, etc.) or too expensive for a family to afford.

■ A limited range of options for affordable child care, as well as limited options for free or low-cost preschool experiences, is a major challenge in supporting children in the period of birth to 5 years.

• The high stress that comes with the financial aspect of child care and preschool can be an enormous obstacle for parents and may have a detrimental effect on a child’s transition experiences.

– Some families with children in a dual-licensed child care and preschool are paying double for both services – the cost is prohibitive to families.

– A shortage of preschool options exists in general, and specifically, the state has a shortage of affordable preschool options.

– Economic circumstances for a family may require both parents to work, yet limited child-care options are available to them if both parents work or if they work multiple jobs.

■ Challenges with staff resources in child care can be a barrier to the development of children or their successful navigation of transitions. Turnover of staff or providers in child-care settings, which decreases reliability of care for young children, is a major challenge for supporting children in transitions.

• Finding qualified staff for child care or other early childhood settings is a challenge in many communities, particularly due to a combination of lower wages and staff turnover (rate of burnout is high, etc.).

• If parents previously had a child in a more high-engagement setting (Early Head Start, ND Early Intervention program, etc.), then it can be a major transition when a child transitions to a more limited-engagement setting with minimal staff interactions due to fewer staff available.

• Prior to a child entering into a new child-care facility, an interview or walk-through with the parent and child during a normal day of child-care operations will help ease the child during the transition to the new environment.

– Making parents aware of the importance of this practice could be beneficial as the walk-through experience will demonstrate if the child-care facility is the right fit for the child.

• ECE staff who are serving children in a high staff-student ratio setting may simply not have much time available for family engagement (what staff can realistically provide), which could have adverse effects during the initial transition to a new setting.

■ Certain issues or policies that exist in child-care settings or other early childhood settings may exacerbate transition challenges for families with young children.

• Some children may be removed from child care due to behavior concerns, which causes stress for families. Certain settings such as Head Start are more able to work with those situations, which builds appreciation and trust with parents.

• Some child-care and/or preschool settings exist with policies that limit some family support options that aid in reducing anxiety surrounding the transition to school. For example, children who have an IEP (special needs) have confidentiality needs, and so the preschool often will not invite parents into the classroom due those limitations, which reduces support for children in the transition process.

• Particular ECE settings, such as preschool settings, may offer none or only a very limited number of opportunities for family engagement (to be in the classroom with a child, etc.), which potentially could make the transition to school harder on children.

• For a preschool setting, most settings have policies that may limit them as options for a family due to a child being required to already be potty trained. This issue is difficult for staff (privacy needed in limited space) and worrisome for parents (need to leave work, etc.). An exception often exists for children with special needs, or more “full-service” preschool options (Head Start, Montessori, etc.).

• Parent activity or support groups may have a “cap” on the number of participants, so may be “full” if you seek to join or you may need to be on a waiting list. This impacts access to support from other parents as well as the resources given to help ease transitions for a child.

• Some families may not qualify for certain appropriate programs (for example, Early Head Start and Head Start) that may be beneficial for their children as economically they make “too much money to qualify.” As a result, gaps may exist in family-supportive opportunities for some families due to guidelines that specify qualifications for involvement in family support programs. Thus, providing family support or transition opportunities for limited- to moderate-resource families who earn too much to qualify for designated programs but also earn too little to afford other opportunities (good-quality child care or preschool settings, etc.) is difficult.

• While specific programs supported by federal or state funds provide transition program opportunities (for example, Gearing Up for Kindergarten), the availability of funding for these programs is limited by state or other resource funding, meaning these transition classes may not be offered consistently.

• Local service systems or community resources available to families are often confusing and cumbersome to understand and access (lack of familiarity, complexity, etc.).

• Policies designed to preserve confidentiality for some children (i.e., children with special needs) may conflict with and limit transition-easing options (for example, increased family engagement to allow for a smoother transition from home or child care to school), such as in a public preschool setting, where inviting parents into the classroom often is difficult due to those policies (HIPPA, etc.). Additionally, a program may limit engagement due to requiring forms to complete or other requirements.

– Teachers may be limited in their capacity to recommend resources or services to families with special-needs children due to confidentiality laws. Some early childhood professionals noted they were allowed to recommend resources to families, but only if the family specifically approaches them and asks for the information.

Limitations on teachers and resource recommendations – “Schools have to be super careful with that issue because of confidentiality. So, I would have to send out quiet [resource invitations], like pamphlets to every family, [such as] there’s an autism support group you should really attend because you feel you’d fit in. I can’t, they can approach me and ask me what is available, but I can’t specifically go [to them], even though I know your child may have autism or apraxia speech, I can’t say these are some great resources just because of that. (participant, Dickinson focus group on transitions)

Theme 3.2 — Early Intervention Supports and Health-care Resource Limitations

Key Finding: Lack of information exchange and coordination between pediatric care and varied providers in the area of early intervention can be a significant challenge in supporting children and families in transitions, which may include lack of screening and assessments in some settings or coordination about them.

■ Limitations in the system of early intervention services or health-care resource limitations, including a shortage of available staff resources in key areas, can act as a barrier to the development of children or their successful navigation of transitions.

• North Dakota lacks trained private therapy providers for speech-language needs to help children in certain regions of the state (for example, Dickinson area and southwestern North Dakota). As a result, families needing those particular services may be on long waiting lists for extremely limited services or travel a significant distance to reach available services in another location (cost in time, funds). This does not refer to the state-provided Early Intervention program for children ages 0 to 3, which provides services to the family in the home.

– Comment: “I had to go to Bismarck in order [for my child to receive services] and [was able] to go once a week. They want me to come twice a week, and I was like, I can’t financially afford that.” – parent, Dickinson focus group

• The requirements for staff to specialize in particular services (speech-language assistance, etc.) may need to be modified to make recruiting or training qualified staff for particular ECE service needs easier to do. Also, wages available to such service providers need to be substantial enough to keep them in a region.

– Due to increased caseloads in western North Dakota, smaller school districts are forced to resort to tele-therapy for children. However, this is not the most effective approach to treating children who have sensory processing disorders, ADHD or cognitive delays. Western North Dakota rural schools are contracting to receive services from states such as Idaho and Missouri to compensate for heavy caseloads but must contend with differing accents and dialects during these sessions.

– Comment: “I know in the last five years, my caseload has tripled.” – early intervention specialist, Dickinson focus group

– Comment: “Our early childhood specialist comes out and she serves 15 different schools.” – teacher in early education, Dickinson focus group

• For particular early intervention supports, specifically such as speech-language assessment and treatment by private-sector providers, some insurance providers do not provide any payment supports. This issue can make accessing certain types of support more difficult. This does not refer to the state-provided Early Intervention program for children ages 0 to 3, which does not bill insurance and provides assessments at no cost to participating families.

Parental financial struggles in affording special-needs services – “She needs the help, and I can’t financially afford to give it to her, so it’s like I wish I could, but there’s just no option, there’s nothing.” (participant, Dickinson focus group on transitions)

• North Dakota has a shortage of trained staff and/or key resources in the health-care area specific to serving young children and their needs for certain areas or rural sections of the state.

– In southwestern North Dakota, children with particular physical health conditions often must be treated in Bismarck, Fargo or other locations. This involves cost and travel difficulties experienced by the families.

• North Dakota has a shortage of trained staff and/or key resources in the mental health area specific to serving young children and their needs for certain areas or rural sections of the state. Professional caseloads are too heavy; professionals must travel distances to see children with needs; other related challenges.

– Similarly, families face challenges with cost, travel to services, long waiting times for services and other difficulties with accessing mental health supports.

• The ability to engage families for support with transition experiences for a specific child issue or need may be limited due to a shortage of key providers in that area (for example, pediatric mental health, special education, etc.).

– The availability of services varied greatly across the state, with cities such as Fargo, Valley City and Bismarck being cited for numerous services, whereas more remote locations such as Dickinson and southwestern North Dakota described an extreme shortage of available services for their children and families.

• Early Childhood Special Education supports are suggested as not being available or being very limited in a private school setting. This situation leaves numerous parents with the difficult choice of signing paperwork that indicates they are OK with revoking the special needs services that their child has qualified for or sending their children to a public school where they will receive services but less attention from their teachers because class sizes are often much larger in a public school setting.

– If parents decide to revoke services by sending their children to a private school but want to continue to have their children receive the assistance their child has qualified for, they must begin to pay for outpatient services. Such services are usually not covered by insurance companies and are located only in selected areas of North Dakota.

• Some community professionals, such as in the pediatric community, have limited interaction with the ECE community and therefore have limited awareness of available resources. As a result, they also may not fully understand how ECE systems work, particularly with regard to early intervention services and programs (example: referring dual-language learners to early intervention for speech issues), and this limitation makes providing coordination of support during transitions more challenging.

• Early Intervention specialists expressed frustration with the amount of time that is spent doing paperwork versus interacting with the children who need their expertise.

– Participants requested that legislators or policymakers find a way to somehow streamline the paperwork component of special services for children or change the requirements for those who are supposed to handle the paperwork (for example, allow those with less education to handle more paperwork and those who have more education to spend more time interacting with the children who need special services).

• Participants noted that frequency of early intervention and/or special education early childhood meetings, and parent involvement therein, should be three to six times per year.

• It should be noted that a majority of participants spoke highly of their experiences with Early Intervention staff and their work.

– Comment: “I think we have some really good early interventionists in our area that provide really good early intervention services.” – participant, Valley City focus group

• Timing between testing periods for Early Childhood Special Education services is a concern because some children may not qualify for services initially, but they still require services in the future.

– For example, if the child has a spring birthday, the child may be done with services in March but preschool does not start until the following August.

On improper distribution of professional duties – “My aides, who have two years of education versus six by another staff member, are the ones spending the time with the children instead [of the one with more experience] just because that is what the law says. It’s the aides who have less qualifications that are the ones spending more time with the children as they don’t have to do the paperwork. It seems backwards and is very bad.” (participant, Dickinson focus group on transitions)

■ Although some students are screened and qualify for intervention services, parents are not required to follow through with ensuring that their children receive the services for which they have qualified.

• When children are screened and the results indicate that they qualify for receiving services, the parent is responsible for following through and ensuring that their child obtains the services the child needs. This requires parents to be diligent and fill out the proper paperwork, as well as coordinate the services with their schedule if their child is receiving them outside of their regular school schedule. However, no way exists to guarantee that parents will take the steps that are necessary to enroll their children in services nor ensure that they partake in the services.

• Unfortunately, parents who give birth to high-risk children due to themselves being a high-risk parent (for example, financially insecure, substance dependent, living in unfavorable environments, etc.) may simply not take the initiative to ensure their children receive the services that they need. These combined factors produce children who are not receiving the help they need, which also will make transitions more difficult in the future.

• North Dakota also has a scarcity of foster care parents, and this shortage of foster parents to work with children and families in need is a major challenge. Teachers and parent educators believe these some vulnerable children may be “falling through the cracks” because they are not provided with the opportunities necessary that allow for optimal development.

– Participants also mentioned that children in the foster care system should be kept in the same child-care facility or school as much as possible to ease the other transitions that they are experiencing in their lives (for example, moving from foster home to foster home). If the state is able to maintain the stability of the child-care facility and school that the child in the foster care system attends, then this approach potentially could alleviate some of the stress the child could be experiencing related to transitions and other issues.

On providing stability for children in foster care – “I wish some of that training on transitions and the impact it has on children would go to those case managers and even our foster parents who take classes to get licensed.” (participant, Grand Forks focus group)

■ Limited English language abilities of children or family members and a shortage of English as a second language (ESL) support resources can be a barrier to development of children or their support, which is complicated by a limited availability of interpreters to assist with transition issues in North Dakota.

• Communication of basic procedures in ECE contexts or particular materials (for example, developmental screenings) to parents can be challenging. Limited professional resources may exist to assist with doing assessment or screenings with ESL speakers.

– A major concern is that often the only available alternative seems to be usage of Google Translate on a phone, which is not very helpful and inadequate.

• Setting up an interpreter for key settings (preschool or kindergarten orientation, etc.) or finding language support from a parent’s family, friends or neighbors who can interpret as needed is important.

– Child may speak English but communication with parents who do not is needed, especially in helping them understand transition issues or concerns.

• ESL services do not start until kindergarten but are very needed for dual-language children and families during the period of birth to 5 years.

• Very little resources or training is available for ECE staff (for example, child-care provider, preschool instructor) on working with dual-language learner situations. Specific training in practical tools and techniques for how to navigate communication challenges with limited English language speaking children and families in daily interactions is recommended.

• Positives in the process of serving dual-language learners – English language learner (ELL) services are available; each child enrolled in school has to take a language survey; ELL teachers screen and assess children and provide different levels of support based on need; meetings are held with families to review ELL needs and issues.

• Positive – Young children typically learn a new language quickly and well when exposed to it regularly in a learning environment.

Theme 3.3 — Location and Access Matters

Key Finding: Distance between care settings in the community and agencies or programs serving children in the period of birth to 5 years is a major challenge in trying to provide children with access to needed services and/or coordinate care and support across settings.

■ Some participants indicated that they had moved their families (for example, on the western side of North Dakota) to a different geographical location to receive the services that their child required (for example, Head Start, access to a health-care provider, etc.).

• Participants mentioned feeling frustrated when they were offered or recommended services for their children, but nearly all specialists were located in a distant area (for example, Bismarck).

• Many parents felt stuck and uncertain of how to approach obtaining the services for which their children qualified when they needed to travel relatively far to receive them. The need for excessive travel leads to parents experiencing stress related to finances and time management.

■ Some families are isolated due to the rural nature of North Dakota and are simply unaware of transition-easing resources or opportunities. They also may be too far away to easily access the proper resources or programs that mitigate difficult transitions that children must endure during the ages of birth to 5.

■ Many parents on the western side of North Dakota indicated they felt as though they did not have a choice as to which hospital they choose to undergo the birthing process of their children, which is due to the severely limited hospital facilities close to their location.

• Parents from this region of the state often cited the reason they gave birth in the hospital they did was because no other hospital options were near them unless they wanted to drive hours away, which is not ideal during the labor process.

• Due to the scarcity of hospitals in certain areas of the state, a limitation exists related to the amount of transition classes available for new parents. Birthing classes and other transition-easing opportunities may not be offered as consistently by hospitals that serve the western portion of the state, or else they may be harder for participants to get into for a desired learning experience.

■ While certain early childhood options may be helpful with transitions, not all families are able to afford preschool or are allowed entry into the Early Head Start and Head Start programs offered in North Dakota.

■ North Dakota has a shortage of hospital and resource options to support coordination of services.

• Parents described frustration with the lack of a proper transition between health-care providers. Specifically, during the prenatal period, if an OB must transfer a patient to another OB, a formal transition process does not exist between the two medical professionals.

• Parents described feeling lost and lacking in autonomy when making a decision on who they would like to select as their care provider during pregnancy or the birth of their child.

■ Isolation of mothers who have limited supports in western North Dakota is a concern in supporting children during critical transitions.

• Mothers who have relocated with families to western North Dakota are often at home by themselves with children while their partners work long days or shift work, or are gone for long periods of time. These mothers are at an increased risk of social isolation due to the fact that they may not have friends or family in the local community, and therefore may be more challenged in supporting children during transitions.

• Reaching out with supports to these potentially isolated families in western North Dakota is important as they may not know where to start looking for valuable transition-easing resources or who they can trust when asking their questions.

– Comment: “Most moms who isolate themselves do so not even by choice, but they don’t have that [adaptability], and they’re too nervous to go out and make friends and try to figure out what’s out there.” – participant, Dickinson focus group

– Comment: “Mom is at home with a toddler and a baby and she’s tired, she’s overwhelmed and she doesn’t know her neighbors.” – participant, Dickinson focus group

On isolation of families – “Someone in our meeting reported that more than 50% of our kids now in the Dickinson Public School District are kids who are not from here. We now are moving towards a time in which we’ve got more families who are coming in from different places in the United States than families that were born and raised here.” (participant, Dickinson focus group)

■ For some families, economic or resource barriers or external barriers in the environment can result in difficulties that limit access or participation in transition-easing opportunities for families and children.

• Transportation limitations may include a lack of access to a reliable vehicle, limited public transportation options or other issues.

 Limited financial resources available may make participating in supportive services that assist in navigating transitions difficult to do.

• Weather conditions may occur that limit the motivation or ability of families to participate in supportive experiences.

• Economic challenges may cause families to lose phone coverage that allows for simple communication with them about transition-easing opportunities.

Topic Four - Shortcomings or Concerns in the Current Early Childhood System and Transitions

Theme 4.1 — The Broken Bridge Between Settings

Key Finding: Too often, not enough of a “bridge process” exists between services/programs and/or child care or school settings (for example, from Head Start to Early Childhood Special Education, etc.).

■ Parents are concerned when a lack of communication exists across care settings because transitions are made more difficult when a new teacher or provider is not informed of the child’s specific needs.

• For example, if a recommendation is that a child receive special care from a paraprofessional (for example, one-on-one attention) during the transition from Head Start to the public school system, then facilitating a meeting between the previous teachers and staff, new teachers and staff, and parents should be held prior to the transition period to clarify and compromise on meeting the child’s needs when transitioning into a new setting.

• Holding a coordination meeting a few weeks or even months prior to the transition period would allow the teachers and staff that are currently working with the child to incorporate new procedures that will match the new setting into the child’s routine in an environment with which the child already is familiar.

– Beginning a process to make the changes to the child’s routine prior to the change of environment will allow for an easier transition for the child when the child begins school in a new or unfamiliar setting.

• Participants indicated that they felt services or programs were not adequately communicating with each other during transition periods. Further, they felt limitations existed in referring or promoting other available services because they rarely were recommended or provided information about other services during visits.

On the “broken bridge” between care settings – “The bridge from Head Start to preschool special needs was not always there, [and] just because we thought the child needed some extra services [preschool special needs], they were not always on the same page with us. So this has been years of building this relationship.” (participant, Grand Forks focus group)

Theme 4.2 — Teachers Overwhelmed With Challenges

Key Finding: In a preschool or other ECE setting, especially with children in the period ages birth to 5, teachers are often overwhelmed due to large class sizes and the increasing needs of children that require special services, which makes providing support during transitions more difficult.

■ Early childhood settings may have multiple special-needs teachers and paraprofessionals assigned to one child. Based on the needs of the child, more teachers or paraprofessionals may be needed per one child than for others. This process of managing child needs can be overwhelming for teachers if they have multiple high-needs students and limited paraprofessionals to aid in their support for children who have particular needs. The energy and resources of adults to support children in transitions is limited in such circumstances.

■ When a child requires services defined by their IEP, parents would like more communication with the teacher or paraprofessionals who are in a caretaking role of their child regarding their child’s behavioral needs. Parents requested receiving more information during the initial transition period that a child experiences. They would like communication on a daily to weekly basis at the beginning, and monthly after the child becomes accustomed to the new environment.

• This pressure to communicate so frequently with parents during a transition period for a child who is receiving services can be easily overwhelming for teachers, especially if they have multiple children who are receiving services.

On teachers readjusting to each child’s needs – “I talk with my teachers a lot about it. Yes, we all have a great deal of experience working with children, but not this [particular] child. We have to be able to step back and listen and hear that information and be able to adjust what we’re doing.” (participant, Grand Forks focus group)

Theme 4.3 — Stigma Related to Service Usage

Key Finding: Stigma exists for some family members around accessing or using programs or services that could assist a child with transitions.

■ Parents or family members may be shy, uncertain or embarrassed about asking questions or accessing community resources, including inquiring about screening and/or obtaining special needs services for their children.

■ Many programs and services to assist families with challenges (mental health, chemical dependency, etc.) are provided to family members who participate on a voluntary basis, and the family members may decline or limit their involvement due to particular attitudes (desire for privacy; stigma about seeking help; etc.).

■ A sense of stigma related to help-seeking or receiving assistance or resources can be an attitude that limits seeking information regarding transition periods for their children.

• Parents may be sensitive to the stigma surrounding qualifying for services based upon income (for example, embarrassed that they do qualify for services based upon their income).

■ Parents or family members may be fearful or lack trust in providers if dropping off a child at a child care or ECE setting.

■ Parents or family members may respond in different ways to transitions of care from different programs or providers, with some being responsive and interested while others are uninterested and cautious to engage.

■ Attitudinal barriers to transition-easing information or opportunities can be lowered by making a personal connection with the individual, increasing the person’s comfort level and familiarity, and offering or inviting transition-easing opportunities.

• Attitudinal barriers also may be lowered by providing examples of a variety of children and families receiving disability or family services.

■ It is important to note that the stigma surrounding services is apparent on both sides, as some staff may be prone to treat families differently based upon household composition (for example, single parents versus couples).

• Some participants described experiencing different attitudes from health-care workers related to their care during the birthing process when they were in a single parent situation versus having a partner.

• Parents reported being provided with less information upon the birth of their child depending upon the number of children they have (for example, first-time parents receive more information than parents who are giving birth to subsequent children).

– Participants expressed distaste for this practice as they believe the information they receive after the birth of their child can be valuable to them and they want a refresher. It is important to note that empirical findings are constantly updating and parenting best practice recommendations could have changed since the birth of their previous child.

■ Parents or family members may be reluctant to impose on the time availability of staff in ECE settings (preschool, etc.) who are busy or overworked (asking for a one-on-one meeting, etc.).

Theme 4.4 — Budget Shortages in Early Childhood Settings

Key Finding: Although suitable transition-easing programs that provide valuable information to families are available in North Dakota, budget reductions have decreased their impact on families and communities.

■ The program Gearing Up for Kindergarten was discussed with high regard by parents, teachers and parent educators. However, due to state budget cuts, not all communities are able to afford funding for running the program that helps in the transition to kindergarten. If schools would like to offer the program for their incoming kindergarten children and families, they must find the budget for the program themselves.

• Schools with smaller budgets at their disposal, such as rural and western North Dakota schools, often cannot afford to fund the program despite the benefits that children, parents and teachers receive through attending the program. This disparity could lead to an increased educational gap for rural schools in North Dakota in the near future.

■ A request for fully funded preschools in North Dakota was echoed by multiple participants. Fully funded preschools also would help alleviate the education gap between lower socioeconomic status families and higher socioeconomic status families because it essentially would provide the same public school education for all children.

On Gearing Up for Kindergarten: “It used to be funded through the state Legislature and it’s no longer funded. So school districts have to choose to do it and pay for it out of their own budgets, and it’s very expensive. In Dickinson, we can serve 45 kids but we have over 300 kindergartners coming in, and so I think that it would be valuable for that to be everywhere for it to be effective.” (participant, Dickinson focus group)

Topic Five - Awareness of Current Transition Resources

Theme 5.1 — Lack of Awareness Regarding Current Transition Resources

Key Finding: Discussion regarding a variety of resources indicated that participants had no or limited awareness of current transition resources from the state (for example, “Understanding Early Childhood Transition” resource, Child Care Aware website, etc.)

■ Parents or family members may lack awareness or have limited knowledge of community resources or transition-supportive opportunities. This pattern may be particularly true for certain populations (for example, parents who recently relocated) who may be less connected to common sources of information.

■ Parents or family members may lack awareness of transition resources in specific population groups who struggle with information awareness for differing reasons. Such populations may tend to include those who are not income-eligible (higher-income groups) for a resource or service, those in tribal or reservation communities, or those in areas with sparse services or lack of trained staff (frontier areas). A similar population often lacking awareness due to communication challenges may include dual-language learners moving to a new location.

■ Participants encouraged the usage of effective strategies to increase awareness of successful transition tips and resources, which might include providing information to key access points for families, such as teachers, child-care centers or other points where parents gather and network.

■ Parental awareness of specific transition activities or resources frequently fades without available and specific reminders. A “digital reminder” in a person’s email or text is sometimes easily set aside or forgotten, whereas a physical piece of paper can be posted at home for a reminder.

■ For limited-resource populations, economic difficulties may limit contacts by phone or text and so other strategies for awareness may be needed at times.

■ Parental awareness of online resource websites that can link them to local community resources or opportunities to support transitions seems to be very limited.

■ Lack of awareness of available community resources or options to assist with transitions is also at times a challenge among community professionals, such as in the pediatric setting, where less communication with the ECE community may occur.

■ Families moving to the region from other locations may struggle with awareness of local community resources and options, particularly if such resources were not available in their previous location. Connecting them with resources via outreach or local personal connections is an important step in promoting healthy transitions for young children.

■ Participants indicated little familiarity with a state agency website (Department of Public Instruction, etc.) or resources on transition issues and supports.

• Parents and community professionals had only a slight familiarity with state agency-level websites or resources on transitions, specifically; however, some minimal familiarity and usage of the regional parent and family resource center websites and/or their additional resources did occur.

Theme 5.2 — Increasing Awareness of Available Transition Resources

Key Finding: Discussion with parents and early childhood professionals suggested a substantial need for improved awareness and/or marketing of key transition resources that can support children and families.

■ Lack of awareness of available resources is a primary barrier to successful child transitions; the identification and use of marketing strategies that effectively reach families is a key challenge.

■ Participants described the need for more information regarding certain transition periods. These particular transitions include around the age of 2 when a child is transitioning rooms in child care or programs; when a child’s IEP is updated, especially if a child is going to be changing environments (for example, child care to school); and during the major milestones of childhood, which occur quite frequently throughout the rapid period of growth that occurs from birth to age 5.

■ The usage of the internet or digital technologies in relation to transition materials or resources was primarily mentioned as a contact mechanism, a resource for information or for sharing information with others.

• Social media options for engaging with families primarily focus on sharing reminders of school activities, invitations to upcoming events or brief information about a child.

• Digital technologies and platforms allow for the adoption and usage of new approaches to sharing transition activities and resources, such as the concept of the “electronic backpack,” an online school-provided resource that communicates and stores information or events shared with families.

• Online Sources of Information consulted – websites, etc.

– Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning –

– Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC – known in ECE community as “E-Click) -

– NAEYC (National Association for Education of Young Children) –

– Zero to Three website –

On increasing awareness of transition resources – “If you receive a booklet on transitions and your child’s already transitioning, it is [too late]. But if you receive spurts of information, such as when your child is 1 month old, here’s what you should be doing or watching for, it’s a lot easier to digest than to have a book.” (participant, Valley City focus group)

Theme 5.3 — Promotion of Available Transition Resources

Key Finding: Discussion resulted in sharing a variety of brief ideas to promote transition resources, including usage of social media, ads, apps, NDSU Extension and the broad ECE community.

■ Participants indicated that they are highly interested in a place that has a plethora of information regarding transition resources across different contexts and time periods that children experience.

• Discussion surrounding promotion of available transition resources or a key source of such information included a variety of ideas. For example, participants suggested broadcasting a family event at the opening of a resource center. Participants suggested that a pizza or karaoke night that would be open to everyone would be the best way to get them initially in the door of a new or existing resource facility. Such an approach would allow them to form connections with other parents as well as gather information and learn about what the resource center has to offer.

■ A helpful strategy to promote such resources can include health-care providers delivering information on transitional resources and local programs to parents at their child’s wellness check-ups during the first year of life.

On knowledge of available resources – “I wouldn’t know the first step about going to special education for a 6-month-old right now.
If it weren’t for going in for monthly checkups to the hospital, I would not have the slightest clue, to be honest.” (participant, Valley City Focus Group)

■ A helpful strategy to promote such resources can include promoting a “Baby Fair” event in which local services, resource organizations and hospitals participate in providing information to new parents regarding transition opportunities and available resources.

• United Way helped Dickinson start such a program, but it was on a referral-only basis. If a baby fair were to be put on biannually or quarterly throughout the year, this could provide families with a networking opportunity to meet other new parents as well as gather relevant information about services and transition-easing activities that are available in their communities.

■ A key access point for increasing awareness to families is the school system because information can be provided to children and it then likely will be taken home to parents. However, participants indicated that the transition resources must be provided to the family prior to their children attending school. Incorporating transition resources more strategically into child-care centers, preschools, health-care settings and special-need service facilities may be an effective way to inform parents of the local opportunities that are available.

■ A helpful strategy to promote such resources can include developing a program that connects parents to each other based upon the ages of their children and services for which a child qualifies. Also, it is important to continue supporting efforts to provide them with resources about what services are available to them in the communities where they live.

■ A helpful strategy to promote such resources can include informing or partnering with faith-based programs (for example, Medical Connect in Dickinson, N.D.) to promote transition-easing activities, while also highlighting the importance of how the activities provide support to children and families during the transition process.


Mom hugging young child

Section Two: Parent Feedback Survey on Transitions in Early Childhood


In early 2019, the state of North Dakota received a year-long planning grant from the federal government known as the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5). As noted already, NDSU Extension planned and conducted specific work activities in an effort to meet Goals 3.9 and 4.1 in the grant that were related to transition issues and resources.

As a portion of the research activities conducted to further these goals, NDSU Extension developed and implemented a parent feedback survey on transition issues to gather more quantitative information on this topic in North Dakota. This portion of the report briefly outlines the implementation and results associated with this parent feedback survey on transition issues.

Survey Background and Implementation

The purpose of this parent feedback survey on transition issues was to fulfill Goal 4.1 of the grant project’s work plan on conducting an assessment of parent feedback on transition needs and resources through a survey in North Dakota of birth to age 5 parents and professionals. The State of North Dakota sought to understand more fully the issues that parents, caregivers and early childhood professionals experience as related to transitions between the ages of birth and 5 years. A brief summary of the survey’s background and implementation are shared here.

Study Design

The parent feedback survey on transition issues was designed by the project team with NDSU Extension with some input from state DPI staff members. Because time and funding were limited, a convenience sample method was employed to gather feedback from parents, caregivers and community professionals in early childhood as rapidly as possible. When a final version of the survey was completed, it was placed online using Qualtrics survey software for ease of making the survey available and gathering participant feedback.

Survey Measure

To maximize participant feedback, the survey measure was targeted and brief. Four questions of relevance for transition issues in early childhood settings were included. The specific questions and the participant responses are outlined in the report that follows.

Study Participants

Potential participants in North Dakota were recruited into the survey during a four-week period in January-February 2020. They were invited to participate in the transitions survey via an email link that was shared.

Study participants were parents or caregivers of children between the ages of birth and 5 years of age in North Dakota, as well as early childhood professionals in the state. In North Dakota, a total of 175 participants completed the survey (representing 253 children in the identified age group of 0 to 5).

Data Collection and Analysis

The parent feedback survey on transitions was distributed to parent resource center coordinators and other early childhood professionals throughout North Dakota. In turn, these professional contacts shared the survey link via email on client mailing lists.

Survey responses were gathered from 175 adult participants in North Dakota in January and February 2020. Data were collected using Qualtrics survey software. The survey responses were gathered and analyzed using basic descriptive statistics embedded in the Qualtrics survey software.

Survey Findings

The parent feedback survey on transitions was conducted in early 2020 in North Dakota. A total of 175 participants completed the survey. Findings are shared below.

Transition Support Sources

Participants were asked to indicate those individuals, information sources or resources that helped them as they transitioned their child(ren) into a new setting. This question offered participants an open-ended response option. Participants listed options they have found helpful. A qualitative analysis of the responses revealed the major, moderate and minor themes from the participant comments in the table below. The percentages were calculated from the 144 responses that were coded from the short answer responses
(N = 144).

Table 1
Table 1. Transition Support Sources for Parents of 0-5 Years Children (N = 144)

These results indicate that among a variety of potential transition support sources, parents of children during the period of 0 to 5 years of age show clear preferences for two particular sources: teachers and family members. The most preferred option listed by participants was “teachers” (28.47%), which included examples of teachers in settings such as Early Head Start or Head Start, early intervention home visiting or school systems.

Next, participants listed “family members” as the most preferred option for transition support (20.83%). At a moderate level, the transition support sources that were listed as helpful were “friends” (14.58%) and child-care providers (13.89%) (for example, providers at YMCA or other child-care professionals).

Finally, those sources listed least often but which were still of importance were “online sources” (8.33%), health-care professionals such as doctors or occupational therapists (6.94%) and community events or classes including NDSU Extension, library events or similar sources (6.94%). Specific examples of sources in these particular categories are listed below:

• Major Transition Support Sources – Teachers (Early Head Start/Head Start, early intervention home visiting, school systems); family members

• Moderate Transition Support Sources – Friends; child-care providers (day care, YMCA, child-care professionals)

• Minor Transition Support Sources – Health-care professionals (doctors; occupational therapists); community events or classes (NDSU Extension; play groups; library events; parenting classes)

Ease of Transitions in Early Childhood

A variety of transition experiences occur for children during the early childhood years. Participants also were asked to rate their response on the ease of particular transition experiences for children. The participants were instructed to rate only the transitions that they have experienced on a scale of 1 to 3, ranging from “not difficult” (1) to “very difficult” (3). For transitions they did not experience, they were to indicate that it was “not applicable” (NA). The percentages for each category as rated by participants are shown in Table 2 (N = 175).

Table 2
Table 2. Ease of Transition Experiences for 0-5 Years Children (N = 175)

The participant responses show that for families who experience a particular type of transition, it is most common for parents to indicate that the transition for their child was “not difficult.” The two transition experiences with a quite substantial percentage of parents indicating the experience was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” were “bringing your child home from the NICU or hospital” (36%) and “transitions in child care” (47.5%).

More than one-third of participants indicated that bringing a child home from the NICU or hospital was difficult, while nearly one of two participants noted that transitions in child care were difficult. Therefore, these two transition types likely deserve some focused attention in regard to finding ways to improve those transitions.

With regard to preschool, 42.3% of parents noted the transition was “not difficult,” but 27.4% suggested that it was “somewhat” to “very difficult.” The two categories that were “not applicable” to the most participants were Early Head Start/Head Start and preschool special education (both 61.7%), and also were listed as “not difficult” by about one in 10 respondents. Finally, nearly one in five participants suggested that the transitions associated with early intervention (17.7%) or kindergarten (16.6%) were “somewhat” to “very difficult.”

Child Age Demographics

Demographic data on children’s ages were collected to understand the context behind participant responses. Ages of 253 children were reported. Results are reported below.

Table 3
Table 3. Demographics of Child Ages Among 0-5 Years Children (N = 253)


Responses to the parent feedback survey on transition issues in North Dakota resulted in data being gathered from 175 parents, adult caregivers and early childhood professionals. While the survey was brief and used a convenience sampling approach due to a limited time frame and budget, responses to the survey came from throughout North Dakota and included caregivers for children across the ages from 0 to 6 years.

Two key questions were asked of respondents that brought forth information on their views related to transitions in early childhood settings. The first topic explored was preferred transition support sources that were helpful in assisting with a child’s transitions. The most highly preferred sources were teachers and family members (see Table 1). Additional preferred sources in the moderate category were friends and child-care providers, while several minor sources were online sources, health-care professionals and community events or classes.

The second topic explored was the ease of transition experiences for children between birth and 5 years, and the most difficult transitions noted were bringing a child home from the NICU or hospital and transitions in child care (see Table 2). Participants also rated the ease of several other transition types that children may experience in the early years. This parent feedback survey furnishes some useful information for consideration in exploring issues related to the topic of transitions in the early childhood years in North Dakota.

Teacher reading a book to five young children

Section Three: Menu of Opportunities for Supporting Transitions in Early Childhood


The state of North Dakota received a year-long planning grant from the federal government known as the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5). As a portion of the work activities pursued by NDSU Extension, a review of the landscape of resources related to transitions in early childhood was conducted in an effort to meet Goal 4.1 in the grant: “Create transition materials based on best practices to meet transition needs in Birth-5 ECE.”

This process was not exhaustive of all available resources on the topic of transitions in early childhood. Instead, the priority was to catalog a menu of helpful available resources that might be consulted in exploring the topic of transitions. This was based on the work activity to “review and assess current transition resources.” Further, this section includes, as encouraged in the work activities of Goal 4.1, an effort to “develop [a] preliminary plan for development … of final comprehensive transition materials.” This portion of the report explains a variety of relevant resources that are linked with the topic of transitions in early childhood.

A Resource Menu for Transitions in Early Childhood

Transitions in early childhood can be challenging for young children and also for their parents or caregivers. Lack of coordination among service systems, limited communication or other factors can make transitions challenging. Based on the review of resources linked with supporting healthy transitions in early childhood, a variety of useful resources and ideas can be employed in supporting and improving transitions in early childhood settings.

Some of these are resources that address the topic of family engagement but also focus on transitions in that context. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive menu of available resources on transitions in early childhood but instead is an illustrative menu that provides a starting point for exploring this topic.

Resources on Transitions in Early Childhood

A variety of resources can be used by parents or early childhood professionals. They consist of basic educational resources, including reports, websites, videos, programs or other educational items. Many of them are available through specific organizations. An illustrative list of possible resources for transitions is included here.

■ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Learn the Signs. Act Early. Initiative and Milestone Tracker App — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports and provides resources and support for early childhood development. To facilitate awareness of developmental progress and developmental testing, it sponsors the initiative Learn the Signs. Act Early. Also, it has available for parents and others a user-friendly app to help in tracking a child’s developmental milestones, the Milestone Tracker App (available in English, Spanish). Resources mentioned here are highlighted in the resource links.

– Selected Resource: Learn the Signs. Act Early. Initiative

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Milestone Tracker App

– Resource Link:

■ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity – Maternal, Infant and Toddler Resources — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports and provides resources and support for early childhood development. To facilitate awareness of healthful nutrition, physical development and relationships, a variety of helpful resources are available through its website focused on maternal, infant and toddler well-being. For information on such resources, access the resource link.

– Selected Resource: Maternal, Infant and Toddler Resources

– Resource Link:

 Child Mind Institute — The Child Mind Institute is an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. It focuses on providing high-quality clinical care, advancing the science of the brain for diagnosis and treatment, and providing useful, accurate information that empowers families and communities in meeting needs. It provides a wide variety of specific resources relevant to early childhood and transitions. For information on this organization and its resources, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: How Can We Help Kids with Transitions?

– Resource Link:

■ Education Commission of the States (ECS) — The Education Commission of the States is an organization established to assist education policy leaders with resources, expertise and policy approaches. Among its resources, it has published Transitions and Alignment: From Preschool to Kindergarten (2018). This research-based policy guide provides information on key issues, resources, and policies to assist parents and professionals working with young children on transition concerns. For information on this organization and this resource, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Transitions and Alignment: From Preschool to Kindergarten (2018)

– Resource Link:

■ Educational Resource (Book) — Authored by Angèle Sancho Passe, the book Is Everybody Ready for Kindergarten? A Toolkit for Children and Families is a useful resource that parents and early childhood professionals can use in planning and assisting children with the transition to kindergarten. The book and tool kit are available for purchase online. For information on this resource, access the resource links.

– Selected Resource: Is Everybody Ready for Kindergarten? A Toolkit for Children and Families (2010)

– Resource Link:

■ Global Family Research Project (GFRP) — The Global Family Research Project is an independent, education-focused leader in the field of family, school and community engagement. It is the successor to the well-known Harvard Family Research Project. It is focused on providing children, their families and professionals with the resources, training and support to advance the field of family engagement. A wide variety of specific resources in this area are available, some of which are highlighted below. For information on this organization and its resources, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Seven Research-Based Ways Families Promote Early Literacy (2018)

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Parent-Teacher Conferences: Strategies for Principals, Teachers and Parents

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Caspe, M., Lopez, M. E., & Hanebutt, R. (2019). The Family Engagement Playbook. Retrieved from link below:

– Resource Link:

■ Head Start and Early Head Start: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC) — Head Start and Early Head Start are programs serving families with children ages 0 to 6 and are supported via federal agencies that provide funding, training and technical assistance, and support. The Office of Head Start (OHS) and partner organizations seek to support Head Start and Early Head Start sites throughout North Dakota. These local sites offer a wide range of family-supportive activities as part of their focus on families with children in the early years. In addition, the Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center furnishes a wealth of helpful resources, training and other supports to parents, early childhood professionals and community leaders. For information on these organizations and selected resources on transitions, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Family Engagement in Transitions: Transition to Kindergarten, Understanding Family Engagement Outcomes: Research to Practice Series (2013)

– Resource Link:

■ Just in Time Parenting (JITP) – Parent Newsletter Project — Just in Time Parenting (JITP) is a nonprofit organization established and supported by a network of land-grant universities and Extension systems from across the United States. It focuses on bringing high-quality, research-based information to families starting prenatally and continuing through age 5. It furthers this goal through providing free, research-based parenting newsletters delivered by email and specific to a child’s age and needs. Resources for the Just in Time Parenting newsletters are highlighted in the resource link.

– Resource Link

■ Maryland Family Engagement Coalition: “The Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework Toolkit” — The Maryland Family Engagement Coalition has put together a framework for supporting family engagement in that state through a tool kit approach. The Early Childhood Family Engagement Framework Toolkit offers guidance and tools for use in engaging children and families in a healthy way during the early years, including the topic of transitions. For information on this tool kit, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is the premier national association dedicated to providing children, their families and early childhood professionals with the resources needed for early learning and success. NAEYC supports children, families and professionals through educational resources and activities, technical training and assistance, and a variety of other supportive efforts. Also, the organization offers a specific set of recommendations and resources on the topic of transitions. For information on this organization and its resources, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Resource Link:

 North Dakota Department of Human Services: Right Track Program — The Right Track Program, offered via the North Dakota Department of Human Services, is a free program for all North Dakota children birth to 3 years of age. Consultants can meet with individuals in the privacy of their residence and provide developmental screenings for young children, ideas and activities for stimulating a child’s development and learning, and information and referrals to local, state or other resources. For information on this program, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ North Dakota Department of Human Services and North Dakota Department of Public Instruction: Published Guide on Early Childhood Transition  Understanding Early Childhood Transition: A Guide for Families and Professionals (2017) is a resource guide offered by the North Dakota Department of Human Services and the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. It is a free resource guide for parents, caregivers and community professionals that helps in understanding multiple facets of transition experiences for young children, as well as the supports and services available to them. For information on this resource, access the resource link.

– Selected Resource: Understanding Early Childhood Transition: A Guide for Families and Professionals (2017)

– Resource Link:

■ North Dakota Department of Public Instruction: Published Guide on Special Education in North Dakota — Parent Guide to Special Education is a resource guide offered by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. It is a free resource guide for parents, caregivers and community professionals that helps in understanding special education issues and resources for young children, as well as the supports and services available to them. For information on this resource, access the resource link.

– Selected Resource: Parent Guide to Special Education

– Resource Link:

■ ReadyRosie and Active Family Engagement — ReadyRosie is a research-based and standards-aligned comprehensive family engagement resource and set of tools organized under Teaching Strategies LLC. A network of content experts in early childhood development provide the content for this early education tool that furnishes parents with a library of resources. ReadyRosie harnesses the power of video modeling and mobile technology combined with collaborative workshops and professional learning to empower families and schools to work together in helping children with transitions and success. The ReadyRosie app can be downloaded and the user will receive regular updates and resources for use with children. Resources for the ReadyRosie app are highlighted in the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ Search Institute — The Search Institute is a nonprofit charitable corporation with a mission to partner with organizations to conduct and apply research that promotes positive youth development and advances equity. It accomplishes this mission through conducting high-quality research, providing educational and other resources, and working in partnerships to assist youth, families and professionals. The Search Institute has provided a specific resource on the topic of facilitating developmental relationships in families titled Don’t Forget the Families: The Missing Piece in America’s Effort to Help All Children Succeed (2015). Other resources also are available. For information on this organization and its resources, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Don’t Forget the Families: The Missing Piece in America’s Effort to Help All Children Succeed (2015)

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Promoting Positive Development in Early Childhood: Building Blocks for a Successful Start (2008)

– Resource Link :

■ University of Illinois Extension: Parenting 24/7 Project — University of Illinois Extension is a statewide educational network that is the outreach educational arm of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The Parenting 24/7 Project is a “one-stop” source of news, information and advice on parenting and family life from University of Illinois Extension. It offers a variety of research-based educational resources and programs to assist people in the areas of parenting and child development. It includes research-based articles, video clips of parents and experts, breaking news and commentary, newsletters and recommendations on the best parenting resources online. For information on this project and its educational resources, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ University of Pittsburgh, Office of Child Development: Ready Freddy Program — The University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development launched and sponsors a program that focuses on the transition to kindergarten. The Reay Freddy Program: Pathways to Kindergarten Success is a well-researched and popular program facilitated by the University of Pittsburgh in partnership with a group of supportive partners. It brings together all the necessary elements for a high-quality transition and provides a wealth of resources of others who would like to do the program. For information on this project and its educational resources, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ U.S. Department of Education: Early Learning Website — The United States Department of Education sponsors a variety of projects and initiatives that are designed to support young children and families. Its Early Learning website offers access and information to a variety of these resources. This includes the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO). For information on these resources, access the resource links.

– Resource Link:

– Selected Resource: Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, U.S. Department of Education

– Resource Link

■ U.S. Department of Education: Early Learning Network — The United States Department of Education sponsors a variety of projects and initiatives that are designed to support young children and families. Its Institute of Education Sciences funds the Early Learning Network, a research network working to improve the academic success of children in pre-K through grade 3. The Early Learning Network is housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and includes a wide variety of resources specifically on young children and transitions. For information on these resources, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

■ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children and Families (ACF) — The United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children and Families, sponsors a variety of projects and initiatives that are designed to support young children and families. Its Office of Early Childhood Development coordinates a project called Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them. A website offers access and information to a variety of these resources. For information on these resources, access the resource link.

– Selected Resource: Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! project

 Resource Link:

■ Zero to Three — Zero to Three is a national organization that works to bring the science of early development into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for those working with young children and their families. The organization focuses on a variety of efforts to support nurturing, responsive and helpful approaches to working with young children. It engages in support of children and families through resources and programs, training, capacity building, systems change, collaboration, advocacy and related efforts. For information on this organization, access the resource link.

– Resource Link:

Menu Plan for Comprehensive Transition Materials and Supports

Menu Plan Table

Menu Plan Table

Three kids playing with blocks


Brotherson, S.E., Query, S., and Saxena, D. (2013). Parental learning and school readiness in the Gearing Up for Kindergarten program. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 1(1), 17-30.

Kagan, S.L., and Tarrant, K. (2010). Transitions for young children: Creating connections across early childhood systems. Baltimore, Md.: Brookes Publishing.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Accessible online at:

North Dakota Department of Human Services and North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. (2017). Understanding Early Childhood Transition: A Guide for Families and Professionals. Bismarck, N.D.: North Dakota Department of Human Services and North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Accessible online at:

Olson, K.A., and Gengler, C. (2014). Partnering for School Success: Take and Teach Lessons. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved online at:

Pekel, K., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Syvertsen, A.K., and Scales, P.C. (2015). Don’t forget the families: The missing piece in America’s effort to help all children succeed. Minneapolis, Minn.: Search Institute. Accessible online at:

Purtell, K.M., et al. (2019). Understanding policies and practices that support successful transitions to kindergarten. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. Accessible online at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. (2018). Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework. Retrieved online at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. (2018). Transitions in Early Head Start: Tips on Supporting Families of Infants and Toddlers. Retrieved online at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement and National Center on Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. (2018). Supporting Transitions: Early Educators Partnering with Families (Transitions Into and Out of Early Education Programs). Retrieved online at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement and National Center on Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center. (2018). Supporting Transitions: Using Child Development as a Guide (Transitions Are Part of Life). Retrieved online at:

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