Systems Change Grants

Underlying Issues:

 There has been no change in post-school outcomes for students with disabilities over a fifteen year period. The sheer numbers of students who transition into sheltered workshops demonstrate that the majority of students have not been prepared for integrated work in their communities or postsecondary education.

 Students with significant disabilities are often denied access to general education curriculum, while the focus on “college and career readiness” includes no clear definition of what this means. This term should be interpreted to include postsecondary programs and paid integrated employment for students with intellectual disabilities.

 Numbers of postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities are increasing; there are approximately 200 programs in 37 states (www.thinkcollege.net). However, many educators are not aware of available resources for programs and therefore their students do not have a postsecondary vision.

 Students are still not spending time working prior to exiting school (in volunteer or paid jobs).

 One of the major issues, other than not finishing high school, is the lack of appropriate job training for today’s jobs—this doesn’t mean we necessarily need more of the outdated job training opportunities but trade schools and technology training.

 In the context of housing there are benchmarks/targets in terms of Olmstead, why not work on getting placements in integrated employment outcomes?

 Transition—demonstration grants are underutilized.

 All transition policy changes should be driven by the underlying belief in high expectations (TEAM Empowerment bill).

 Transition policies should include a prohibition on facility-based outcomes including sheltered workshops, group setting options and day programs.



o CPSD recommends that System Change Grants be created for states to apply with the outcome of shifting the focus of Transition programs to Employment First outcomes: the idea that employment in integrated settings within the community should be the priority service option.

o The overall approach of these systems change grants should be the integration and adoption of Employment First philosophy, policies, and practices, within both transition and the adult service system.


 Applicants must clearly demonstrate that they have an environment that is aligned with Employment First. Potential criteria: state Employment First policy, steps state has taken to increase employment outcomes, documentation of any opposition that has occurred to reducing reliance on facility-based programs and how that has been addressed, etc.

o Twenty-three states have been identified that have something akin to an official Employment First policy (based on legislation, policy directive, etc.).

o Eight states have passed legislation: California, Delaware, Kansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Utah, and Washington

o The other 15 (Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee) have a policy directive, Executive Order, or similar official policy statement, but not legislation.

o Nine of these policies are cross-disability: Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, North Dakota, Virginia, and Utah.

o The remainder of states with policies, have policies that focus exclusively on individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington.


 States must propose a systems change approach that includes the following elements:

o Development of state transition policies that: a) clearly delineate that employment in the general workforce is the expected ultimate outcome of transition; b) prohibit (or at least strongly discourage) use of facility-based services while students are enrolled in school; c) strongly discourage placement in facility-based or non-employment programs as an outcome of transition; d) create an expectation that young people with significant disabilities should leave school with work experience in the general workforce (after-school work, summer jobs, etc.), since the data strongly support that work experience leads to better employment outcomes.

o Full analysis of current funding spent on employment/day services of people with disabilities (including students), and how this funding will be re-allocated to support employment in line with the principles of Employment First.

o Development of state policies that will ensure compliance with the DOJ requirements for “informed choice” in terms of employment. Per DOJ, “such steps include providing information about the benefits of integrated settings; facilitating visits or other experiences in such settings; and offering opportunities to meet with other individuals with disabilities who are living, working and receiving services in integrated settings, with their families, and with community providers. Public entities also must make reasonable efforts to identify and addresses any concerns or objections raised by the individual or another relevant decision-maker.”

o How the state’s current data system will be enhanced to include the following elements: a) Tracking of employment outcomes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, in terms of hours worked, wages, etc.; b) Tracking of work experience by students with IEPs while in school; c) Accurate tracking of outcomes of students with IEPs (and not simply Indicator 14, the reliability of which is highly suspect).

o Development of personnel preparation program/requirements that will ensure consistent quality of school personnel that work with students with disabilities, in terms of best practices in employment.

o Strategies for integration of young people with significant disabilities into any existing school-to-career programs in the state, available to students without disabilities.

o Development of a systematic approach to improving the job skill levels of students and young adults with significant disabilities, that includes linkages with Carl Perkins funded programs, vocational-technical programs, short-term post-secondary skill training in integrated education programs, workforce development funded youth services, etc. The basic approach would be developing strategies for supporting young people with disabilities in such programs, through universal learning strategies, accommodations, and additional staff support.

o Development of a structure for a universally available “pro-employment” benefits assistance structure that recognizes and responds to the varying levels of need of benefits counseling ranging from basic information to development of a full-scale benefits plan. Such an approach would require that all individuals (including school personnel) that assist individuals with disabilities with their employment needs, have core knowledge of benefit issues. The availability of intensive benefits assistance for those who need it would also be part of such an infrastructure. (Exclusively reliance on WIPA programs is not acceptable for fulfilling this requirement, as they have both insufficient capacity to address this need, funding is inconsistent and not reliable, and not every individual needs the level of intensive benefits assistance that WIPA programs provide). Case managers/ brokers must be accountable for navigating each family through the programs with the goal of employment.

o A systematic approach to building a robust cross-agency infrastructure for supporting young people and adults with disabilities in employment, in line with Employment First, that includes: state ID/DD agency, VR, workforce development, Medicaid, state DOE, Social Security.

o A systematic approach to integrating the concept of Employment First within the service provider infrastructure, that includes reconfiguration of funding structures, mechanisms for service providers to change service models, and reducing reliance on facility-based program (including sheltered work, day habilitation) and non-work community programs. This should also include peer-to-peer efforts (individuals, families) that will assist in transforming the culture in support of Employment First.

o Within the overall systems change effort, approaches and strategies for addressing the need of individuals with disabilities from diverse backgrounds (racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, etc.), should be included.

o Development of partnerships with business groups and associations resulting in increased mutual understanding of the needs of employers and job seekers with disabilities, resulting in increased effectiveness in service system responsiveness to business needs, while increasing the placement of individuals in typical jobs in the general workforce that is fully reflective of the diversity of the state and local labor market. Experimentation with potential incentives for businesses to hire people with disabilities should be part of the plan.

o Evaluation of each approach must be evaluated based on employment outcomes for students with disabilities, rather than hours of service provision.



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Idea No. 220