Ancillary Services to Support Welfare to Work. Disability

06/22/1998

INTRODUCTION:

Although welfare recipients with physical or learning disabilities have high rates of unemployment, with appropriate workplace accommodations many can become successfully employed. The few research studies available have begun documenting the widespread occurrence of disabilities--particularly learning disabilities--among welfare recipients and the high correlation between disabilities and unsuccessful efforts at employment. If this population of welfare clients is to make a successful transition from welfare to work at a sustaining wage, agencies must accurately diagnose clients' needs and explore opportunities for workplace accommodations.

This section provides information on and addresses the following questions related to disability among welfare recipients:

NEED FOR SERVICES:

  • How is disability defined?
  • What percentage of the welfare population faces this barrier to employment?
  • What relationship does disability have to welfare dependency and employment?

Definition

There are many different definitions of disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 broadly defines it as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities." The Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program (VR), a program to help people with physical or mental disabilities become employed, defines disability more narrowly, as a physical or mental impairment that constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1990). For our analysis, we focus on welfare recipients who face barriers to employment because of two types of disabilities: (1) work-related physical disabilities, and (2) learning disabilities.(1)

Work-related disabilities are defined as self-reported physical or health conditions that limit the ability to work or make a person unable to work. Learning disabilities, often difficult to identify and therefore frequently undetected, are defined as a range of problems manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities or of social skills (Cohen et al. 1994). Learning disabilities, thought to be due to dysfunction of the central nervous system, generally occur among people with average or above-average intelligence and are measured according to differences between expected and actual levels of achievement (Giovengo and Moore 1997). More broadly defined, "special learning needs" may cover learning disabilities, as well as mild mental retardation, slow learning, below-average IQ, or low basic skills (attributed to those with only a grade school education or low scores on tests of basic skills).

ESTIMATION OF NEED:

  • Tables 3 and 4: Work-related disabilities
  • Tables 5 and 6: Learning disabilities, including low basic skills

Percentage of the Welfare Population Facing This Issue

Work-Related (Physical) Disabilities

National estimates: 10 to 20 percent
State/local estimates:(2) 11 to 31 percent

Tables 3 and 4 in Appendix A provide the full review of estimates on people with work-related disabilities. Most estimates in this area do not distinguish between SSI and welfare recipients. (Welfare recipients with physical disabilities may or may not qualify for SSI, and little is known about the number and characteristics of low-income, physically disabled people who qualify exclusively for welfare and are not eligible for SSI.) The ranges in estimates, presented in the box above, are due primarily to the following factor:

  • Barrier Definition. Estimates that are based on a narrow definition of work-related disability, such as a health condition that makes a person unable to work, will tend to be much lower than estimates that apply a broader definition, such as a physical disability or health condition that limits the ability to work.

Learning Disabilities

National estimates: 25 to 40 percent
State/local estimates: 36 to 66 percent

Tables 5 and 6 in Appendix A provide the full review of estimates on those with learning disabilities, including low basic skills. The ranges in these estimates, presented in the box above, are due to the following factors:

  • Barrier Definition. Estimates that are based on a low reading level will vary slightly from those based on results of an IQ test or a measure of basic skills. Clinically diagnosed learning disabilities will yield lower estimates than will those that include more broadly defined "special learning needs."
  • Measurement Method. Differences in measurement methods largely explain differences in estimates of people with learning disabilities. Different measurement methods include a formal learning disability assessment; an assessment based on tests of basic skills; an assessment based on client reading levels; and an estimation of the proportion of welfare recipients with learning disabilities based on a comparison to a similar population that is learning disabled, such as participants in Adult Basic Education. State estimates are often based on the use of formal learning disability assessments of individual welfare recipients, further validated by psychological testing.

Relationship to Welfare Receipt

  • Female welfare recipients are more than four times as likely as nonrecipients to have very low basic skills (Olson and Pavetti 1996).
  • People receiving welfare five years or longer are almost twice as likely to have very low basic skills than are those receiving welfare less than two years (Olson and Pavetti 1996).
  • Among welfare recipients in a recent study, those with special learning needs received welfare for 79 months, compared to 61 months for those who did not have special learning needs (Giovengo and Moore 1997).

Relationship to Employment Status

  • People with any level of disability are much less likely to be employed than those without a disability, and they have a greatly reduced earnings capacity (McNeil 1997).
  • People who report having work disabilities are more than twice as likely as other workers to be unemployed but actively seeking work--16 percent versus 7 percent (Mashaw and Reno 1996).
  • Welfare recipients with functional limitations are half as likely to exit welfare for work in a given four-month period than recipients without functional limitations (Acs and Loprest 1995).
  • A large proportion of adults with learning disabilities are thought to drop out of job training efforts because the programs are not designed to meet their learning needs (Gerber and Reiff 1994).

Welfare Agency Approaches

  • What can welfare agencies do to assist clients who face disability as a barrier to employment?
  • What does the evidence suggest about the effectiveness of addressing this barrier?
  • What do we know about program costs?
  • What do we know about program implementation?

The two critical program features of an agency's approach to addressing disabilities as a barrier to employment are (1) identifying which clients have physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and other special learning needs; and (2) determining the type of program or service to provide.

Client Identification

Accurate identification of clients with disabilities and the correct determination of the type of disability are critical first stages to working with these clients. The identification process applies to physical disabilities, learning disabilities, and other special learning needs; however, the use of formal identification tools and instruments is more relevant for learning disabilities. There are two key steps in this process: screening and assessment.

Screening refers to determining the probability that a disability exists. The use of formal screening tools is critical for learning disabilities, which are much less apparent than physical disabilities.

Assessment refers to a process for collecting information to determine which aspects of a client's life are affected and what type of disability exists. Assessments typically take the form of vocational evaluations and/or diagnostic testing.

A number of instruments are used to screen for learning disabilities. Two states--Washington and Kansas--have developed short screening instruments appropriate for use by welfare caseworkers to identify learning disabilities. In addition, Washington developed a second screening instrument, designed to identify other special learning needs. Both of Washington's instruments are based on the Payne and Associates Special Learning Needs Inventory. The Kansas instrument was developed by the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. Research efforts to test and validate these screening tools are ongoing. In addition to these screening instruments, the National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center acts as an information resource network, providing materials on how to identify and serve adults with literacy needs and learning disabilities. (Additional contact information on these sources is provided under the sections entitled Program Models and Further Information.)

After initial screening, complete vocational evaluations and/or diagnostic assessments are usually conducted. Vocational counselors typically conduct vocational evaluations to determine how to accommodate individuals with physical disabilities (and, in some cases, learning disabilities) in the workplace. Ideally, clinical psychologists conduct diagnostic assessments to identify learning disabilities. This type of formal (clinical) assessment, in combination with tests to measure ability and achievement, is generally necessary to identify a learning disability and make a complete diagnosis. After this assessment, an accommodation or service plan is developed to help the client manage the effects of the disability, recognize the types of jobs that are suitable given the disability, and identify appropriate and customized adjustments necessary for the client to successfully get and maintain a job.

Program Strategies

State and local agencies are enhancing their efforts to better identify and accommodate clients who are limited in their ability to work by physical and learning disabilities. Our review of programs suggests that there are at least four broad program strategies to address these barriers. While some of the programs are operated by welfare agencies, others are either collaborative program efforts between welfare and other agencies, or are programs operated by nonprofit service providers to which welfare agencies refer clients. Lessons from all of these efforts are relevant for welfare agencies interested in developing their own strategies to better serve clients with disabilities. This review is concerned chiefly with examining what welfare agencies can realistically hope to accomplish in response to client needs and does not extend to potential responses that would go well beyond the welfare agency, for example, to address changes in the SSI and SSDI systems.

We categorize these strategies below. The distinctions drawn are not intended to suggest that agencies design programs around a single strategy or that these strategies are necessarily mutually exclusive. They are provided instead to foster thinking about the range of programmatic objectives possible, to help agencies define their own service needs, and to classify the programs described at the end of this section for agencies interested in pursuing further information. The four program strategies as they relate to serving clients with disabilities are categorized as follows:

Staff Education and Awareness. Programs with this strategy, by providing training to staff from welfare agencies and other community organizations, aim to increase awareness and understanding of (1) how disabilities can affect clients and their prospects for employment, and (2) what types of special services and accommodations clients need to move from welfare to work.

Client Identification. Programs with this strategy aim primarily to improve accuracy in identifying clients who have disabilities, particularly learning disabilities. These include programs that offer advanced training to welfare case managers to improve their ability to identify, support, and refer clients with disabilities for further assessment and specialized services. They also include specialized initiatives to develop brief screening tools that welfare staff can use to detect learning disabilities.

Service Coordination. Programs with this strategy aim to improve coordination between agencies in order to help clients obtain available services. Coordination takes any number of forms, including the provision of user-friendly methods to provide information about available benefits and services and the use of formal referral procedures to allow access to services for clients with disabilities.

Employment Integration. Programs with this strategy offer services directly related to employment, including vocational assessment, vocational training, remedial education, job training, job search and placement assistance, and transitional employment support. These programs are usually operated by organizations to which welfare agencies make referrals, for example, nonprofit service providers.

Program Outcomes

There is minimal evidence of the effectiveness of different types of welfare agency efforts to address barriers to employment that are related to clients' disabilities. Moreover, too few programs outside the welfare system that serve persons with disabilities have been adequately evaluated for a determination of their effectiveness. The research that has been conducted, however, suggests that positive employment and welfare outcomes can result when people with disabilities receive appropriate VR services (GAO 1993; and Dean and Dolan 1991).(3) In particular, people with learning disabilities can be productively employed if remedial education and occupational training are successful and if they are helped to compensate for their disability in the workplace (Kohaska and Skolnik 1986).

A number of studies, most of which are not rigorous evaluations, help to support the benefits of skill remediation and vocational rehabilitation for adults with either disabilities or low basic skills. Further research in this area is warranted for obtaining empirical evidence of program effectiveness and for discerning which program strategies are successful at providing vocational rehabilitation and occupational skills training specifically to welfare recipients with disabilities.

Effect of Disability Service and Accommodation on EMPLOYMENT

  • A national quasi-experimental evaluation of the VR program for people with disabilities found that participants who were successfully rehabilitated had significant gains in employment and earnings at five-year followup compared with participants who had dropped out of the program (GAO 1993).
  • A quasi-experimental evaluation of the VR program in Virginia compared participants (both successful and unsuccessful rehabilitants) with program dropouts and found that participants with physical disabilities and female participants with mental and emotional disabilities had significantly greater earnings at one-year followup than did dropouts (Dean and Dolan 1991).
  • Descriptive data from an employment integration program showed that over 70 percent of participants who received vocational services (only a small portion of whom were welfare recipients) were placed in private-sector jobs with average starting salaries of $16,000 (National Center for Disability Services 1996).
  • An experimental design evaluation of the National Supported Work Demonstration, a program that provided subsidized employment in a supported work environment to welfare recipients with limited skills, showed that program participation resulted in statistically significant gains in earnings two years after enrollment (Kemper et al. 1981).

Effect of Disability Service and Accommodation on WELFARE RECEIPT

  • An experimental design evaluation of the National Supported Work Demonstration, a program that provided subsidized employment in a supported work environment to welfare recipients with limited skills, showed that program participation resulted in statistically significant reductions in public assistance two years after enrollment (Kemper et al. 1981).

Program Costs

Little data on program cost is available on the six disability programs highlighted in the section entitled Program Models. In general, however, the client identification and service coordination programs are less costly to implement than the comprehensive, employment integration programs. Data from the broader literature on disability programs allow us to provide some useful information on cost effectiveness and the approximate range of program costs for several of the different program approaches.

Client identification programs are potentially very cost-effective, since clients with disabilities can be successful in the labor market if disabilities are identified and appropriate remediation and accommodations provided. For identifying learning disabilities, the initial cost to welfare agencies of using short screening tools is minimal. The additional cost of using more comprehensive assessment instruments can vary greatly--ranging from pencil-and-paper tests that require about one hour, can be administered by nonprofessionals, and cost only $2 to $7 per person, to comprehensive test batteries that require several days, must be administered by trained professionals, and cost up to several thousand dollars per person (Nightingale et al. 1991). Some of the less expensive assessment kits are appropriate for use by welfare agencies.

Once a positive learning disability assessment is made, welfare agencies can implement a number of relatively low-cost strategies, for instance, using unpaid volunteers to tutor and mentor clients, modifying instructional materials to allow for differences in individual learning styles, and combining basic skills instruction with functional occupational skills training. Nevertheless, arriving at a formal learning disabilities diagnosis and developing an appropriate accommodation plan are still likely to require the more costly involvement of a trained professional. If a referral is made for such a diagnosis, the costs can be assumed by another service provider, for example, the VR program. Based on 1988 data, VR programs spent an average of $1,300 to provide evaluations and diagnoses (and sometimes other services) to people with learning disabilities (Miller et al. 1984). In other cases, when costs of learning disability assessments are assumed by welfare agencies, they can sometimes be partially offset through coordinated funding arrangements with Medicaid.

The cost of employment integration programs may vary greatly depending on the nature of a client's disability. One program estimated that total per-person costs of comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services ranged from $3,000 to $11,000 per client.(4) However, if clients successfully acquire and sustain employment and require few additional services, such programs will be very cost-effective despite the high initial investment. For instance, the National Supported Work Demonstration, a program that provided subsidized employment and various supported work services to welfare recipients with limited skills, essentially paid for itself through reductions in participants' welfare and food stamp benefits (Kemper et al. 1981). In addition, another study that examined the cost-effectiveness of rehabilitation services for people with severe disabilities showed that savings ranged from about $1.40 to $2.70 for each dollar spent on rehabilitation services (McManus 1981).

Program Implementation

Welfare agencies have not traditionally provided extensive supportive services to clients with disabilities, but instead have made referrals to other service providers. Moreover, the programs to which welfare agencies may make referrals--the VR program and other programs that serve disadvantaged populations with disabilities and low basic skills--have only recently begun to address the issue of assessing and serving people with learning disabilities (Nightingale et al. 1991). Therefore, very little information exists on how welfare agencies should better serve clients with disabilities. Our synthesis of various program strategies leads to a discussion of implementation issues faced by welfare agencies and other programs in three key areas: (1) program staff, (2) coordinated delivery of services, and (3) service capacity. Along with the discussion, we recommend steps that welfare agencies should take to better serve clients with disabilities.

Program Staff

If program implementation is to be successful, welfare agencies must make a substantial commitment to training staff on disability issues, particularly on how to use screening and assessment tools to identify clients with disabilities. Since disabilities--particularly learning disabilities and low basic skills--are very common among the welfare population, staff must understand the nature of different types of disabilities and develop the skills necessary to identify, support, and make appropriate referrals. Since learning disabilities among the welfare population are largely undiagnosed (Giovengo and Moore 1997), staff training to identify these clients is critical. Few states have even adopted a definition of learning disabilities pertinent to adults and adult service providers (Cohen et al. 1994). Doing so is a necessary first step to training staff.

After they receive initial training to be sensitized on disability issues, staff should be trained on how to administer short screening and assessment tools and make appropriate referrals. At present, only a few states are actively screening for learning disabilities. Current screening tools to determine basic functional skills and literacy levels are not designed to detect the possibility of a learning disability. When staff screen and assess clients for learning disabilities, careful attention to technical detail is necessary, as research findings caution service providers to avoid arbitrary referral of individuals with low reading skills to possibly inappropriate remediation programs (Nightingale et al. 1991). Greater coordination and technical assistance at the national level may be needed to help welfare agencies prepare their staff to meet these goals.

Coordinated Delivery of Services

To serve clients with disabilities successfully, welfare agencies should develop partnerships with other organizations for the provision of remediation, rehabilitation, and employment-related services. To help clients with disabilities move from welfare to work, welfare agencies must continue to develop collaborative partnerships with other community organizations that provide rehabilitation, training, and supportive services to clients with disabilities. These include the VR program and, more broadly, employment integration programs and other organizations that conduct assessments and vocational evaluations and that provide services related to employment, education, and training. As relationships with these types of providers are developed and strengthened, care must be taken to coordinate conflicting organizational philosophies or missions. The VR program, for instance, has not traditionally served large numbers of welfare recipients, many of whom have low basic skills and limited work experience. Nor has it focused on providing fairly rapid training and employment, as is required by the current welfare law. Rather, VR clients typically have received services for a period of time ranging from two months to two years. Hence, significant attention by welfare agencies to cultivating workable partnerships with the VR program will be necessary. Coordination at the national level may also be an important factor to successful local partnerships with this program.

To serve as a bridge between strategies provided directly by welfare agencies and strategies provided through coordinated service delivery mechanisms with partnership programs, welfare agencies should consider offering on-site vocational counseling from a trained professional who can administer disability assessments and vocational evaluations, tailor existing services to clients with disabilities, and make appropriate referrals.

Service Capacity

To serve clients with disabilities successfully, welfare agencies must assess the extent to which current local service capacity helps to serve, rehabilitate, and employ clients with disabilities and, where gaps exist, address the shortage. It is not clear that existing program resources are adequate to provide vocational assessment, rehabilitation, and employment-related services to welfare clients with disabilities. Some communities may not offer programs with which welfare agencies can develop collaborative partnerships. In these cases, there will be greater pressure on welfare agencies to provide supportive services directly to clients.

In terms of existing program resources, there is generally a lack of coordination among various disability programs, leading to both service duplication and service gaps (GAO 1996). More specifically, the VR program typically serves only an estimated five to seven percent of all potentially eligible people with work-related disabilities (GAO 1993). In addition, the VR program is required to give priority in participant selection to people with severe disabilities. These factors, while not providing evidence of a service gap, do suggest that the VR program may be limited in its capacity to serve welfare recipients with disabilities.

In terms of obtaining funds for program services, service capacity may be somewhat more problematic in those states that do not fully access available federal matching funds, for instance, for the VR program. In some states, welfare, mental health, and other agencies have already coordinated service efforts with the VR program by contributing funds to help it collect additional federal matching funds. When agencies contribute such "third-party payments" to obtain additional funds, they essentially ensure that the VR program will provide services to their clients. This is one strategy that welfare agencies may wish to consider to increase service capacity in their communities.

Program Models(5)

  • What are welfare agencies doing to address this issue?
  • Whom can I contact?

The following programs are presented alphabetically by state. The reader can determine the relevance of a program by noting its primary program strategy and geographic location and then refer to the brief descriptions and contact information on the subsequent pages. We have used primary objective(s) to assign program strategies, though a program may have many objectives.


Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational Rehabilitation Training Program

Montgomery, Alabama

Program strategy: Staff education and awareness

Location: Available to agencies throughout the state


Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services

Learning Disabilities Initiative

Topeka, Kansas

Program strategy: Client identification

Location: Two communities, urban/rural


Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill Employment and Training Welfare-to-Work Programs

Bethesda, Maryland

Program strategy: Employment integration

Location: Available throughout most states


National Center for Disability Services

Edwin W. Martin, Jr., Career and Employment Institute (CEI)

Albertson, New York

Program strategy: Employment integration

Location: One suburban location; seven urban locations


Washington Department of Social and Health Services

Learning Disabilities Initiative

Olympia, Washington

Program strategy: Client identification

Location: Nine communities, urban/suburban/rural


Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Wisconsin Works (W2) Disabilities Hotline, Disabilities Training, and Linkages with Vocational Rehabilitation

Madison, Wisconsin

Program strategy: Client identification, through case worker training

Service coordination

Location: Statewide


Program Name/Contact

Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational Rehabilitation Training Program

Montgomery, Alabama

Linda Haimes

Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

800-441-7609

Program strategy: Staff education and awareness

Location: Available to agencies throughout the state

Brief Program Description

Staff from different types of social service organizations in Alabama have been trained by the Alabama Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), which provides periodic training to education and training service providers and welfare agency staff on disability issues, particularly those involving learning disabilities. The one-and-a-half-day training session that VR developed is designed to increase understanding of learning disabilities among service providers, including welfare agency caseworkers. The training does not equip service providers and welfare agencies with assessment tools for identifying learning disabilities, but it does sensitize them to the importance of developing individualized education and job training plans for clients thought to have learning disabilities.

A strong referral link exists in Alabama between the welfare agency and the VR program. Once referrals to VR are made, VR staff conduct assessments to identify and characterize disabilities. Then, they provide the accommodations and services necessary to prepare clients for work and, ultimately, to transition them into work. Typically, the assessments take up to a week to complete.

Evaluation

Neither the training program nor the curriculum has been formally evaluated.

Program Name/Contact

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services

Learning Disabilities Initiative

Topeka, Kansas

Phyllis Lewin

Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services

785-296-3349

Program strategy: Client identification

Location: Two communities, urban/rural

Brief Program Description

The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services (KDSRS) has examined the prevalence of learning disabilities within its welfare population. Through its Learning Disabilities Initiative, which began in early 1996, the department has designed a screening tool for welfare staff to identify those with learning disabilities and is currently working to validate it. The initiative has the following objectives: (1) provide training and a screening tool to welfare case management staff, (2) identify service delivery strategies to better serve learning-disabled clients and move them toward self-sufficiency, and (3) identify characteristics of available jobs that are suitable for learning-disabled clients.

The initiative, conducted in two communities, is funded jointly by the Departments of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Education, Labor, and Corrections. Staff in Kansas teamed with the University of Kansas to develop a short learning disabilities screening tool that frontline welfare staff could use to identify clients with learning disabilities. About 90 welfare clients who volunteered to participate in the initiative were tested, and all participants identified as learning disabled were then referred to a clinical psychologist for further testing. This ongoing testing process helped to validate the screening tool, characterize the nature of the clients' learning disabilities, and lead to recommendations for appropriate instructional techniques, accommodations, and employment opportunities for clients. Efforts to validate and refine the short screening tool are ongoing.

Evaluation

This program has not been formally evaluated. The KDSRS, as part of its work developing and validating the learning disability screening tool, conducted a descriptive study of 88 participants (Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services 1998).

Findings

There is no information on program impacts.

Program Name/Contact

Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill Employment and Training

Welfare-to-Work Programs

Bethesda, Maryland

Jeff Foley

Goodwill Industries International

301-530-6500

Program strategy: Employment integration

Location: Available throughout most states

Brief Program Description

Goodwill Industries is a nonprofit provider of employment, training, and job placement services for people with physical and learning disabilities and other disabling conditions (such as welfare dependency, illiteracy, criminal history, and homelessness). The Goodwill employment and training programs are funded by federal, state, and local grants, as well as by revenues from Goodwill retail stores that sell donated clothing and household goods. Nine Goodwill education and training projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Project for People with Disabilities Program, authorized under the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA).

The Goodwill Industry network includes 180 autonomous organizations in the United States that operate training and placement centers in 46 states. Goodwill currently operates 70 welfare-to-work centers, half through contracts with state governments. These centers provide employment, training, and supportive services for welfare recipients and others, including people with physical, learning, and other broadly defined disabilities. Client referrals are taken from welfare agencies, as well as from other organizations and agencies (for example, vocational rehabilitation programs). More than 200,000 people received Goodwill employment and training services in 1996. Of these, over half were low-income people, and at least a tenth were welfare recipients.

Most Goodwill organizations provide a core set of services, including vocational evaluation and assessment, occupational skills training, job search development and job placement, and transitional employment support (for instance, on-the-job training). Many Goodwill programs also offer life skills training, assistance with transportation and child care, and postemployment assistance for both employers and employees. A client with learning disabilities, for instance, would be given a series of vocational assessment tests to determine the types of accommodations necessary for obtaining and staying at a job. Although a good deal of local variation exists, skills training typically prepares clients for such fields as computer programming, electronics, financial services, janitorial work, retail sales, and food service.

Evaluation

The National Results Council is beginning an evaluation of the Goodwill programs to assess the quality of services provided and program effects on rates of job retention and wages earned.

Program Name/Contact

National Center for Disability Services

Edwin W. Martin, Jr., Career and

Employment Institute (CEI)

Albertson, New York

Francine Tishman, Executive Director

Career and Employment Institute (CEI)

516-465-1480

Program strategy: Employment integration

Location: One suburban location; seven urban locations

Brief Program Description

The Edwin W. Martin, Jr., Career and Employment Institute (CEI) at the National Center for Disability Services provides education, training, and supportive services for people with disabilities, with a focus on ethnic minorities who traditionally are underserved. The CEI is one of numerous programs offered through the National Center for Disability Services, a nonprofit organization that strives, through education, training, research, and leadership, to improve the self-sufficiency of people with disabilities and help them get and maintain jobs.

CEI, which is located in a suburban area of Long Island, New York, assists more than 1,000 people each year and is expanding its services to other parts of the United States. Based on a recent contract arrangement with the New York State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) system and the New York City welfare system, CEI will nearly double the number of welfare clients it serves, to about 15 percent of its total caseload. Under this arrangement, New York City welfare agencies refer clients who have both dependent children and disabilities (including those related to mental health or disability) to the VR program, which in turn refers them to CEI for specialized welfare-to-work services.

Services include vocational evaluations, vocational training, remedial education (for instance, for improving math and reading skills and working toward a GED), job placement, job coaching, work experience, transitional employment services, coordinated academic programming and job search assistance for people with learning disabilities, and rehabilitation management services for injured workers. Clients typically receive services for a period of between six weeks and seven months. The estimated cost of the program per participant varies widely, ranging from a minimum of about $3,000 to a maximum of about $11,000.

CEI also operates a National Business and Disability Council. Through this council, CEI works with Fortune 500 corporations in interviewing, hiring, and accommodating people with disabilities. CEI also operates job placement programs in numerous cities, including Albertson, Albany, and Rochester, New York; San Antonio, Texas; Denver, Colorado; St. Louis, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Birmingham, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Phoenix, Arizona.

Evaluation

This program has not been formally evaluated.

Findings

There is no information on program impacts. Descriptive data from 1996 on participant experiences indicate that more than 70 percent of people who received vocational services were placed in private-sector jobs with average starting salaries of $16,000.

Program Name/Contact

Washington Department of Social and

Health Services

Learning Disabilities Initiative

Olympia, Washington

Melinda Giovengo, Project Director

Washington Department of Social and Health Services

206-760-2393

Program strategy: Client identification

Location: Nine communities, urban/suburban/rural

Brief Program Description(6)

In November 1994, Washington's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) launched the Learning Disabilities Initiative, which first estimated the prevalence of learning disabilities among welfare recipients and then designed and validated screening tools for welfare eligibility staff and caseworkers to use to identify clients with learning disabilities. It also developed remediation and accommodation service plans to help such clients obtain and stay at jobs. The initiative began in two communities, one urban and the other rural. Nearly 200 welfare clients participated. By the end of 1997, nine communities and nearly 500 participants were involved.

Participants were given the Payne and Associates Special Learning Needs Inventory, a complete diagnostic assessment for learning disabilities. A clinical psychologist administered additional tests, measuring ability and achievement, to validate the initial assessment and recommend accommodation. Then two shorter screening tools with about 15 questions each were developed for use by frontline welfare staff to identify clients who may have learning disabilities. Efforts to validate these short screening tools are ongoing. Once clients are screened as learning disabled, remediation and accommodation services provided through the DSHS may include one-on-one tutoring and life skills training. Appropriate referrals to other organizations, for instance, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency are also made.

Evaluation

This program has not been formally evaluated, though a descriptive study of the original 193 study participants was conducted (Giovengo and Moore 1997).

Findings

There is no information on program impacts.

Program Name/Contact

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Wisconsin Works (W2) Disabilities Hotline, Disabilities Training, and Linkages with Vocational Rehabilitation

Madison, Wisconsin

Sue Larsen

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

608-266-3288

 

Carolyn Hoffman

Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities

608-266-7826

Program strategy: Client identification, through case worker training

Service coordination

Location: Statewide

Brief Program Description

Wisconsin's Council on Developmental Disabilities funds a toll-free telephone hotline--the Wisconsin Works (W2) Disabilities Hotline--to provide assistance to clients with disabilities, including clients who are not receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Hotline staff answer questions and provide information on services available under the W2 TANF program. In particular, the hotline provides information on TANF work programs, education and training opportunities and requirements, medical assistance, child care, food stamps, transportation, and kinship care. The hotline is advertised among the welfare population by disability organizations and advocacy groups.

To support the work of the hotline, the W2 program offers advanced training to case managers for identifying, working with, and making appropriate referrals for clients with disabilities, including learning, physical, and cognitive disabilities. Training is supplemented by the W2 Case Management Resource Guide, which provides case managers with information on identifying and serving clients with these types of disabilities, as well as many other barriers to employment (for instance, domestic violence, mental health, disability, and transportation).

A well developed referral mechanism exists between the W2 program and the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a relationship facilitated by the joint administration of the VR and the W2 programs, which are both included in the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). As long as the VR program has adequate capacity, it will provide services to referred W2 clients with disabilities. Services include individual assessment and the development of a vocational service plan. The DWD is currently working to address differences in organizational mission (clients served, relative emphasis on work, program time frames) between W2 and VR so that services and functions can become better integrated in the future.

Evaluation

This program has not been formally evaluated.

Further Information

Further information on issues related to medical needs is available from the following

Organizations

National Adult Literacy & Learning Disabilities Center

202-884-8185

Website: novel.nifl.gov/nalldtop.htm

The National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center helps organizations to identify and serve adults with learning disabilities, provides information on best practices for identifying and serving adults with learning disabilities, produces training materials to enhance knowledge of adult literacy and learning disabilities, and offers targeted training and technical assistance and an information exchange network.

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

202-205-8134

Website: www.ed.gov/offices/osers/nidrr

The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research supports rehabilitation research, as well as demonstration projects, training programs, and related activities that are designed to maximize the inclusion, employment, independent living, and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.

National Institute for Literacy

Washington, DC

202-632-1042

Website: novel.nifl.gov

The National Institute for Literacy creates systems to enable adults with literacy needs to receive appropriate services, with special emphasis on building public consensus and policy, monitoring programs, sponsoring program initiatives, disseminating valid information on programs and research, and building interagency collaboration. The institute provides technical assistance on working with members of the welfare-to-work population who have learning disabilities. In addition, it supports four Learning Disability Training and Dissemination hubs that provide technical assistance and develop collaborative service strategies to help welfare recipients with learning disabilities move towards successful employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program

U.S. Department of Education

Washington, DC and the States

202-205-5474

The Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VR) Program authorizes federal matching funds to states to operate programs that help people with disabilities to prepare for and engage in gainful employment. VR programs develop individualized service plans for clients and provide a wide range of services, including individual assessment, vocational evaluation and adjustment services, education and training, job counseling, medical and therapeutic services, job referral and placement, and on-the-job training.

Further information on issues related to medical needs is available in the following

Documents

Cohen, E., S. Golonka, T. Ooms, T. Owen. "Literacy and Welfare Reform: Are We Making the Connection? Meeting Highlights and Background Briefing Report." Washington, DC: Family Impact Seminar, 1994.

This report explores the ways in which various education and training programs, including welfare-to-work programs, incorporate literacy skills training. It reviews literacy terms and definitions; profiles literacy levels, basic skills, and learning disabilities among the low-income population; provides an overview of programs that incorporate literacy services; and describes the link between federal literacy and welfare policies.

Nightingale, D., R. Yudd, S. Anderson, and B. Barnow. "The Learning Disabled in Employment and Training Programs." Research and Evaluation Report Series 91-E. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, 1991.

This report provides a comprehensive discussion of the nature and extent of learning disabilities among low-income adults in employment and training programs. It estimates the proportion of individuals in this population who are learning disabled; synthesizes current knowledge on testing and assessing adults to identify learning disabilities; outlines strategies to serve learning disabled adults (for instance, through basic skills remediation and occupational skills training); addresses cost implications; and makes recommendations for serving adults with learning disabilities.

U.S. General Accounting Office. Vocational Rehabilitation: Evidence for Federal Program's Effectiveness is Mixed. GAO/PEMD-93-19, Washington, DC: 1993.

This document examines that state-federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) program that is directed by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education. The study, conducted by GAO, examines the population eligible for the VR program; describes services received by clients; and evaluates the program's outcomes using longitudinal data and a quasi-experimental design evaluation.

U.S. General Accounting Office. People with Disabilities: Federal Programs Could Work Together More Efficiently to Promote Employment. GAO/HEHS-96-126. Washington, DC, 1996.

This report reviews federal programs that target people with disabilities, focusing on three key issues: (1) the number of programs providing employment-related services to people with disabilities; (2) the coordination of information, eligibility criteria, and services among various programs; and (3) programs' effectiveness in promoting employment among people with disabilities. Numerous programs are highlighted that, to some extent, serve low-income people with disabilities, for instance, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Programs, the Employment Service, and Supported Employment Special Projects.

1. Disabilities related to mental health are discussed separately in the section titled Mental Health Issues.

2. The state and local estimates are based on data from only one study (Meyers et al.1996). This study examined the prevalence of disabilities among welfare recipients in the state of California.

3. About one-third of VR clients receive some type of public assistance during the time when they participate in the program (GAO 1993).

4. Data are based on a personal communication with Francine Tishman of the National Center for Disability Services' Career and Employment Institute, February 1998.

5. For an explanation of how programs were selected, please refer to the discussion included in the Introduction under the paragraph heading "Program Models."

6. Welfare agencies in both Rhode Island and Illinois have recently started learning disability initiatives modeled after Washington State's efforts. The Rhode Island initiative entails collaboration with its Vocational Rehabilitation department and the Illinois initiative entails collaboration with its Adult Education department. Both are focused on client identification and employment integration efforts.