In addition to the Individual Transition Plan, the DDS Transition Coordinator helps families learn about the services and supports that the Department provides to adults. This includes an array of possibilities: service coordination, individual and family support, employment support, transportation and residential support. Typically, the Department provides employment services and supports through a network of qualified Employment Service Providers. There are about 100 employment service providers throughout Massachusetts, allowing each young adult a choice in finding a program that is a good match, based on his/her needs and the availability of DDS funding. See the following section to learn more about what employment service providers offer, how to find them and how to decide the best match for your son or daughter.
Assuming your son/daughter:
Has left high school
Has had an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) written with the help of the school and DDS Transition Coordinator
Has been found eligible for DDS adult services
The DDS area office will next assign a Service Coordinator to your family. And, just like the school assembled a team of professionals for IEP meetings, the Service Coordinator will assemble a team who will work together to develop an Individual Support Plan (ISP) for your young adult. The ISP team may be made up of representatives from adult service programs, such as employment service providers, additional involved professionals and others you and your young adult choose to invite. The Service Coordinator will provide information about different services in your area and help make referrals to a DDS-funded employment service provider, based on the plan that has been developed for your young adult and the funding that is available. The ISP, like an IEP, is an on-going process of establishing goals for your young adult and identifying supports, assessments and strategies that will help him/her reach those goals.
Employment service providers are organizations that contract with DDS and other state agencies to offer a range of employment services for young adults with intellectual disabilities. When comparing employment service providers, families will find that some specialize in job placement and support while others specialize in comprehensive planning and assessment, and others do it all. Since employment services providers vary in a number of ways, it is important that families and job seekers are actively involved in deciding which employment service provider and type of program is the best fit. People with disabilities and their families have more say in the services they receive than they may realize.
Here is a list of the types of services offered by employment service provider programs to assist young adults in finding jobs:
Development of a career plan to identify a job search direction and a job-finding process, created with input from the young adult and his/her family
Assessment of skills and interests
Arranging job try-outs and job-shadowing experiences
Time-limited job skills training, such as computer skills training
Help with developing a resume
Job development assistance, including locating and talking to employers about jobs and the hiring process
Job coach assistance in the workplace, which focuses on learning job tasks, adjusting to job requirements and ensuring a stable, ongoing employment experience
Follow-up support to the worker and employer
Assistance in arranging accommodations that may be needed on the job
Travel-training assistance and/or help with arranging transportation
Information and guidance on the impact of earning an income on public benefits
The types of employment services available to your young adult will depend on the steps s/he has already taken:
If your son or daughter obtained a job while in school, then the focus of services will be on job coaching and ongoing support services to enable continued success on the job.
If your son or daughter is just beginning his/her employment search, then services will most likely start with an assessment of interests, skills and abilities, followed by the development of a career plan, and help in finding and keeping a job.
Not all employment service programs are alike; they vary in size, types and variety of services offered, qualifications of staff, range of people served, and most importantly, quality of results.
One of the ways in which employment service programs differ is based on the employment model they use. Individual job placement is the most typical employment model. This is an integrated, individual job placement where a young adult is working in a regular job in the community, hired and paid directly by the business, and earning similar wages and benefits as other employees. In these situations, young adults receive individualized support as needed by a staff member from the provider program, including job coaching and related supports. These services supplement natural supports that exist in the workplace. The intensity of support provided to the individual worker on the job generally decreases as s/he develops skills and becomes more independent.
Some young adults may benefit from experiences in a group job placement. In this employment model, the employment service provider makes arrangements for a number of workers with disabilities to meet a need at a community business. The workers are under the supervision of the service provider program and most often are paid by the provider organization. An example of a group placement would be members of a stocking crew at a department store or members of a custodial maintenance crew at an office building. Group placement options can also include employment provider- run businesses, such as landscaping or a catering service.
Some young adults start out with a supported individual job, while others start in a group placement and then move into individual jobs. Group job placements can function as a transitional service to help facilitate a young adult's movement into an integrated, individual job placement. This opportunity can provide young adults the chance to explore career interests, different types of work and work settings, and develop work skills, work habits and independence that may be important to succeed in an individual job.
A small but growing number of young adults are starting their own businesses with the support of employment service providers. This self-employment model requires careful thinking, planning and support; for young adults with a particular set of skills and interests, it can be the right approach. For further information on self-employment, check out www.start-up-usa.biz/.
Learning about employment service providers
In order to know which employment service provider program to advocate for, start by understanding the alternatives.
Think about how relatively important each of the following is to your young adult: wages and benefits, safety/security, fun people to work with, location, and potential for promotions and growth. Pay attention to how well you think the program will take these into account as they work with your young adult.
Visit and interview a variety of employment service providers. DDS and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (See page 19) staff can supply you with a list. Other families are also a great resource.
When visiting different providers, inquire about the following issues:
Basic program offerings. What employment model(s) do they use: group placement only, or individual job placement? What services do they offer besides finding employment for people with disabilities? How many people do they serve, with what types of disabilities and which ages?
How they work with individuals. What is the typical process for providing services? How do they help people figure out the kind of job they want? What is their success record and, on average, how long does it take to find an individual a job? What happens when a person does not succeed on a job?
Staffing. What kind of qualifications does staff have? What is staff turnover like? What are caseload sizes?
Exploring employment programs in your area will give you information on the services and related resources your son/daughter may receive, and will give you a sense of which provider is the best match. You will be in a well-informed position to discuss and plan with your DDS Service Coordinator.
When shopping around for an employment service provider, be sure to inquire if the providers best-suited to your young adult have current openings and, if not, how long it would be before an opening would become available.
A complete checklist of questions to compare employment service providers is included in Appendix B of this booklet.