Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Outcomes and Interagency Collaboration for Youth with Disabilities
thesisposted on 2017-10-28, 00:00 authored by Jessica M Awsumb
This study examines post-school outcomes of youth with disabilities that were served by the Illinois vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency while in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through a mixed methodology research design. In order to understand how outcomes differ among the study population, a large-scale dataset of the employment outcomes of these youth with disabilities was analyzed based on demographic variables and services received (N=4,731). In addition, semi-structured interviews were conducted to expand on the results of the quantitative data analysis with CPS transition specialists (n=2), Division of Rehabilitation Services administrators (n=2), VR transition counselors (n=2), and University of Illinois at Chicago interagency collaboration facilitators’ (n=2). Lastly, the perspectives of these stakeholders were examined to understand the interagency collaboration initiative’s affect on the employment outcomes of youth with disabilities. Results revealed individual and systemic challenges in supporting youth with disabilities transitioning to adulthood. Employment outcomes were worse for females, African American youth, and youth with mental disabilities. In contrast, males, Latino(a) youth, and youth with intellectual/developmental disabilities fared well in the VR system. Further, the analysis of the VR status progression system showed that few students were receiving services and more than half of students were eligible but did not receive any services. Conversely, students were more likely to have a successful employment outcome when they received vocational rehabilitation and guidance, job placement services, or job search assistance. Study results suggest eight key themes for youth with disabilities transitioning from CPS services to VR services. In relation to the employment outcomes of youth with disabilities: (1) family involvement and support; (2) resources, opportunities, and services; (3) community and agency supports; and (4) systemic barriers emerged. Themes for the interagency collaboration partnership included: (1) basic requirements of interagency collaboration; (2) systemic challenges; (3) the current partnership; and (4) future partnership goals. As a result of this research, implications for practice, policy, and research were developed. Within practice and policy, implications for the education system, vocational rehabilitation agency, and interagency collaboration were suggested. Major study implications identified include the necessity for continuing education for vocational rehabilitation professionals, the creation of a policies and procedures manual for serving youth with disabilities, and stakeholder unification around the vision and future evolution of the interagency collaboration partnership in order to benefit youth with disabilities transitioning to adulthood.