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Service Works! Collaboration between Vocational Rehabilitation and National Service programs as an avenue towards employment for VR clients
Student from Montana, volunteering at an animal shelter
Outline Overview of the VR system VR clients: Why volunteer? Survey data Finding and recommendations from learning community on national service and VR Questions and discussion
Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program John Connelly, CSAVR
The Law Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended 34 CFR 361 Regulatory Guidance Title 4 of the Workforce Investment Act
Background State/Federal Program Exists in all states and territories Match Eligibility based Administered by Rehabilitation Services Administration in ED Combined, general, and blind agencies State plan and state wideness
The VR Process Application Eligibility determination Individual plan of employment Service provision Job placement Closure
Goal & Key Concepts Competitive employment Informed choice Order of selection Statewideness State rehabilitation councils Individualized services
Service Provision Methods of service delivery Possible services Listed in IPE Informed choice Financial needs testing Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
VR Clients: Why volunteer? Volunteering and engaging in community service are effective avenues for personal and professional development. Service participants actively contribute to and strengthen their communities. For people with limited vocational experience, national service can be part of a long-range employment plan. Service can allow VR clients to: develop vocational skills gain work experience engage in career exploration build professional networks.
Here’s what service members are saying… “Everyone says you need experience or no one will hire you. One can get experience from volunteer service.” “I honestly think that without that year [AmeriCorps National], I would not be the person I am today. I would not be as prepared for college as I am today.”
Survey Data 26 state VR agencies responded to an online survey on collaboration with their state’s service commissions. While some states have developed partnerships, almost half of respondents reported no familiarity with CNCS programs. Approximately 1/5 of reporting VR agencies has some type of relationship with their state’s Service Commission. Though some agencies were not aware of the benefits of national service, many perceive it as a way to prepare clients for employment. 2/3 of respondents indicated that they want information about how service can lead to employment for VR clients. Preliminary findings from NSIP survey of state service commissions indicate that 17 states have VR on their State Inclusion Teams.
Online Learning Community: Service and VR In the spring/summer of 2011, NextSTEP formed an online Learning Community on Service and VR to promote collaboration between Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and national service programs. The end goal of the group was to produce a report that highlights the practice and policy challenges, strategies from the field, and recommendations for increased collaboration.
Emerging themes from the Learning Community Advantages of Service and VR Collaboration Greater opportunities for people with disabilities to move towards competitive employment. Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards (formerly the AmeriCorps Education Award): post-service benefit available to members- can be used to pay college costs or to repay student loans. Extension of VR’s resources to serve more individuals with the same dollars. A broader base of qualified members to serve. VR’s expertise in advising on accommodations and assistive technology and creating an inclusive environment.
Emerging themes from the Learning Community Barriers to Collaboration VR counselors may be unaware of the benefits of national service, and lack information to connect clients. More research needed to support link between participation in service and employment outcomes for VR clients However, it is well established that national service participation increases communication skills, social networks, and problem solving skills (Corporation for National & Community Service, 2004; Wilson & Musick, 2003) all of which are known to increase the likelihood of positive employment outcomes.
Emerging themes from the Learning Community Promoting service within RSA guidelines for practice Participants in national service receive a living allowance, but commitment is time-limited and thus does not meet standards of an employment outcome for VR. Service needs to integrated into client’s employment plan as a structured work experience that leads to valuable skill building.
State strategies for collaboration A focus on youth In FL, using service for youth to increase networks and develop skills. High school students may have less pressure than other types of VR clients to find competitive employment immediately Other approaches for youth include short-term experiences like “Service Shadow Days” In DE, all VR transition counselors are matched up with local service agencies VR counselors have used service sites for community based work assessments.
State strategies for collaboration Membership on Statewide Disability Inclusion Team Many states have Statewide Inclusion Teams that bring together the service commission and other disability organizations; several have VR representation. In MI, the VR staff person that participates on the Inclusion Team champions better connections between service and VR. Representation from VR on these teams has helped counselors to see service as a viable option for their clients.
State strategies for collaboration Engaging in joint trainings Volunteer Florida’s Disability Coordinator has done several trainings on AmeriCorps for VR transition counselors. Members of the Statewide Inclusion Team have participated in joint trainings in MI and the Service Commission maintains a presence at statewide conference for transition coordinators. Goal is to build and reinforce a mutual understanding of VR and service.
State strategies for collaboration Sharing resources MI’s Service Commission developed a document to address how participation in service could affect members’ SSI and SSDI benefits for distribution to VR counselors. VR staff were better prepared to provide accurate information about and promote service as an option to VR clients. Resource like this can be a relationship-building tool and conveys that the Service Commission is committed to including individuals with disabilities.
Recommendations from the Learning Community Pilot project for VR clients participation in service Increased outreach to VR counselors Establishing links among federal agencies Greater involvement of VR staff with service commissions Enhanced data collection and tracking for VR clients who participate in service
Student from Colorado, volunteering in a library
National Service to Employment (NextSTEP) The National Service to Employment Project (NextSTEP), funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) conducts research, provides technical assistance, and creates demonstration projects focusing on people with disabilities in volunteer and community-service roles.
Resources The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) engages more than 5 million Americans in service. www.nationalservice.govwww.nationalservice.gov The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) provides training and technical assistance to help national service programs include individuals with disabilities as active participants. Contact information for each state’s disability coordinator is available at: www.serviceandinclusion.orgwww.serviceandinclusion.org National Service to Employment Project (NextSTEP) conducts research, provides technical assistance and creates demonstration projects focusing on people with disabilities in volunteer and community-service roles. Among its other activities, NextSTEP is working to promote collaborations between VR and service programs. Work Incentive Planning and Assistance projects (WIPA) serve all Social Security Administration beneficiaries with disabilities. The offices provide benefits planning and assistance services on request. https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/oesp/providers.nsf/bystate https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/oesp/providers.nsf/bystate
Contact Information Sheila Fesko, NextSTEP Project Director 617-287-4354 Sheila.firstname.lastname@example.org