School to Work – Successful Supported Employment

King County Developmental Disabilities Division School to Work (S2W) program has been very successful in transitioning youth from school to jobs.  Students with more intensive support needs were not finding the same success – many were not referred to the S2W or if referred, often did not obtain an employment contractor to receive services. Therefore in all reality, these students with more intensive support needs were essentially excluded from the very successful S2W transition program.

I had inquired about participation for my son, Thomas, in years past.  One administrator from Developmental Disabilities Administration told me that my son would not be eligible since the program tended to “cherry pick” those students who they believed would be the most successful – a method used to show a higher percentage of employment.  I was also told that since my son did not live in “the community” he would not be eligible to enroll.

Luckily, with persistence and the development of a pilot program, King County together with several other agencies collaborated and initiated the High Support Needs S2W program in 2014.  Ten students participated and 7 of those had jobs within the first year, 5 of those were employed before they graduated from their school programs.

Thomas was a ground breaker in this program – being the first participant who lives in an Intermediate Care Facility for those with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID).  Not only was he the first participant but he was also one of the 5 who had a job prior to graduation.  He works 2 hours in the mornings (Monday through Friday) at Lowes in North Seattle.  He absolutely loves his job!  We hope that his success will lead others to have similar success stories.

This year KCDDD  celebrated their 10 year anniversary for the School to Work program. A video was made highlighting a few of these employees on their job sites.  Please do view the whole video as it is quite inspiring to see these young adults doing such great work.  Thomas’ section starts at 16:30 into the video.

In meeting with other families in focus groups at the end of the first year, it was generally agreed that the employment vendor and employee coach was the person who could make or break the success of the program.  Listening to the stories of how the employee coaches got to know the students and find jobs which utilized the students strengths and abilities was so inspirational and a huge thanks needs to go out to these dedicated providers.

Personally, we can not say enough wonderful things about those at Provail who have worked with Thomas.  It has been a blessing to work with the team and be involved in this life changing event for Thomas.  Having this job has greatly increased his quality of life and helped transition him from school to work and other life events involved in becoming a young adult.

S2W High Support Pilot –

When does “choice” mean “restriction”

Many things are changing in the name of “choice” but is this all really choice or is it putting more restrictions on people?

By micromanaging definition of words such as “community” and “employment” our government and advocates are actually reducing the alternatives by creating restrictions on how funds are spent.  Reducing alternatives which greatly benefit many of our loved ones means they lose the ability to make choices.

Having these strings attached to federal funds, funds which are critical to our most vulnerable citizens, forces them into situations which may not be in their best interest.  Is this what choice and alternatives are about?

The fact of the matter is that many do want to live in community settings with similar people, share supports and be able to walk independently outside their home to a friends, an event, or to shop. The other fact is that by eliminating “sheltered workshops”, without replacing with an alternative, forces the people who work in those jobs to be shuttered away in a home, isolated from their community.  Is this what choice is about?

Chris Collins, R-Clarence, represents the House of Representatives’ 27th District, which includes about half of Ontario County, New York, writes about this issue with regards to sheltered workshops.

“The federal government is not in a position to direct all disabled people to join competitive employment. Ultimately, the choice to stay in a workshop should be an employment option for the disabled who are not yet ready to make their transition to a competitive environment. Parents and providers are concerned about finding jobs in this tough economy, especially when non-disabled unemployment rates remain high and stagnant.”

Read more: http://www.websterpost.com/article/20131126/OPINION/131129736/?tag=1#ixzz2mH2WjH46

“Choice of employment” in this situation means the choice to not work since in reality many of these people would be unemployable in a competitive employment market.  There are not enough funds to provide the needed support for these folks to hold a job in a competitive job market and the reality of the situation is these folks will be left  with nothing – is that choice?

 

Please support real choice and real alternatives!