• -0.07,3.00
  • 0.11,3.00
  • 0.03,1.00

BHBF aimed to improve economic self-sufficiency among youth receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) through person-centered planning (PCP), employment and education services, case management, financial work incentives, work-based experience, and job development.

BHBF aimed to improve economic self-sufficiency among youth receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) through person-centered planning (PCP), employment and education services, case management, financial work incentives, work-based experience, and job development.

BHBF was based on the framework developed for the Youth Transition Demonstration funded by the SSA, which focused on making youth with disabilities as economically self-sufficient as possible during their transition to adulthood. BHBF participants met regularly with the community employment development specialists (CEDS), who helped develop and oversee a PCP process, consisting of exercises that helped participants identify their goals in education, employment, and independent living as well as the development of an individualized plan for employment. Participants also worked with a benefit specialist who guided them through the supportive services they could access by referral (for example, housing subsidies, tax credits, transportation and child care assistance, and transitional health care through Medicaid) as well as the BHBF waivers to SSA program rules. BHBF included waivers to SSA program rules that increased the amount of earnings disregarded when calculating benefits; decreased the rate benefits were reduced as earnings increased; extended benefits for those in danger of losing them at age 18 or when their case was re-reviewed; and excluded certain financial accounts from asset calculations. Participants next moved into career preparation activities that consisted of resume writing, mock interviews, communication courses, and job fairs. After these career preparation services, BHBF provided work-based experience, such as paid and unpaid on-the-job training and job development, under the supervision of the CEDS. Participants also took part in financial education and soft-skills training and received case management throughout the program. Participants were eligible to receive matching funds in individual development accounts (IDAs) to save for expenses related to getting an education, starting a business, and purchasing or repairing a car or home.

Participants could use BHBF services for the life of the program. Participants received follow-up services for several weeks, on average, after securing paid employment. Matching funds in IDAs were available for up to two years, and the waivers to SSA program rules were available for up to four years. Youth between the ages of 16 and 22 who received SSA disability benefits were eligible for BHBF. BHBF was implemented in Miami-Dade County, FL. The evaluation of BHBF also studied Transition WORKS, another intervention aimed at improving self-sufficiency among youth who received SSA disability benefits.

Year evaluation began: 2008
Populations and employment barriers: Disability(ies), Young adults (aged 16-24)
Intervention services: Case management, Employment retention services, Financial incentives, Supportive services, Financial education, Soft skills training, Apprenticeships, Unpaid work experience, Work experience, Work readiness activities, Employment coaching, Job search assistance, Job development/job placement
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $2,196 per year 0.105 840
Long-term Supported favorable $2,238 per year 0.107 695
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.076 840
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.071 695
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $-80 per year -0.029 850
Long-term Not supported unfavorable $558 per year 0.203 840
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.029 683

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
52%
White
36%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
42%
Asian
1%
Unknown, not reported, or other
9%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

BHBF began as a pilot in January 2007. Evaluators enrolled individuals in the study from April 2008 to September 2010. The program formally ended in March 2012, and the evaluation team administered separate follow-up surveys to program participants at 12 and 36 months after enrollment.

Organizations implementing intervention

The Florida regional office of ServiceSource (known as “Abilities, Inc. of Florida” at the outset of the intervention, until it became “ServiceSource” in July 2011) is the non-profit disability services provider that implemented BHBF. ServiceSource provided many of the BHBF services but partnered with several organizations that provided additional services and support to BHBF participants.

Populations served

BHBF provided services to SSA disability benefit recipients ages 16 to 22 in Miami-Dade County, FL. The most common disabling condition was a cognitive or developmental disability (42 percent), followed by a learning disability (21 percent) or mental illness (18 percent). Most BHBF participants were either Black or African American (52 percent) or White (36 percent). Forty-two percent of participants were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The majority (60 percent) were male, with an average age of 19. About 42 percent of BHBF participants were not in school, one-third were attending a regular high school, and a quarter were attending a special or other high school. About 40 percent of participants reported a family income of less than $10,000; 37 percent reported a family income between $10,000 and $25,000; and about 23 percent reported a family income of $25,000 or more.

Description of services implemented

BHBF began with an initial orientation interview with participants over the phone or in person at participants’ homes or the BHBF office. CEDS conducted these interviews and initiated a PCP process during this meeting. The PCP helped the participants identify their goals in education, employment, and independent living. BHBF also included waivers to SSA program rules that increased the amount of earnings disregarded when calculating benefits; decreased the rate benefits were reduced as earnings increased; extended benefits for those in danger of losing them at age 18 or when their case was re-reviewed; and excluded certain financial accounts from asset calculations.

BHBF consisted of multiple program components:

  • Case management and work-readiness activities. CEDS worked with participants and their families to turn goals into an individualized plan for employment. CEDS provided case management services focused on employment and education. Participants also received soft-skills training, career-readiness education, and counseling. Those enrolled in school received academic guidance and support. In addition, CEDS advised participants on using job search strategies and tools, helped organize job fairs for participants, conducted mock interviews and job site tours, and held larger job preparation workshops for all BHBF participants.

  • Benefits planning and financial education. Within a month of enrollment BHBF participants met with a benefits specialist for one-on-one benefits planning. The benefits specialist briefed the participant on the SSA waivers available through the program. Benefits specialists helped set up each participant’s IDA, which provided participants with two-to-one matching funds for up to $2,000 in earnings deposited by an individual, or up to $4,000 in earnings deposited by a family per year. Benefit specialists also provided one-on-one planning with participants throughout their time in BHBF, helping identify other benefits and supportive services available to participants after leaving BHBF. The Human Services Coalition provided two annual financial education workshops for BHBF participants and their families.

  • Work experience and job development. CEDS worked with a designated employment specialist at each BHBF office to coordinate work-based experiences for participants, such as job shadowing, volunteer activities, internships, summer youth employment, and on-the-job training, that would help participants obtain paid competitive employment. The CEDS and employment specialist also worked with area employers to develop pipelines for work-based experiences and opportunities for full-time employment.

  • Follow-up services and employment coaching. CEDS checked in with participants frequently in the first few weeks after they secured employment. They also provided short-term job coaching and referrals to long-term job coaching and other services from the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Benefits specialists reviewed the conditions and reporting requirements for the SSA work incentives and waivers with participants.

BHBF was well-implemented by program management, but implementation varied across offices. For example, one BHBF office preferred to do initial assessments at the participant’s home so they could assess the home environment, whereas the other office preferred to conduct interviews at their location to reduce travel time and encourage participants to secure transportation independently.

Implementation also differed from the initial program design in several ways. First, program staff focused on case management and preemployment services during the first year of the intervention but had little success moving participants into full-time employment. BHBF staff renewed their focus on the employment component in the second year of the intervention, which led to a considerable increase in placements for work-based experiences and full-time employment. Second, some CEDS were less comfortable interacting with employers than providing services to participants, so BHBF changed its recruiting practices to hire CEDS with previous experience engaging employers. This made recruiting CEDS more difficult but improved BHBF’s overall performance in moving participants into employment. Third, though TransCen, Inc., provided technical assistance to CEDS on the customized employment, or “job carving,” approach to job development and placement, CEDS rarely used this assistance and instead focused on placing participants in existing job openings. Finally, the authors found that less than 1 percent of participants opened IDAs in the first 12 months after random assignment. Staff faced great difficulty helping participants set up these accounts, and participants had trouble saving their earnings from employment to deposit into these accounts.

Service intensity

There were no limits on how long a participant could receive services provided by BHBF. All participants received at least 18 months of intervention services, but some might have received up to 36 months of services because staff continued to assist participants whose cases were still open until the program ended in March 2012. Participants received follow-up services for several weeks, on average, after securing paid employment. Matching funds in IDAs were available for up to two years, and the waivers to SSA program rules were available for up to four years.

Comparison conditions

Participants were randomly assigned to BHBF or to a comparison group. Individuals in the comparison group could not receive BHBF services but could receive any other services available to them in their community.

Partnerships

BHBF was implemented by ServiceSource with the support of several partner organizations that provided the following services:

  • The Human Services Coalition, a nonprofit organization, provided the instruction and materials for the financial education part of the program.

  • The National Disability Institute, a nonprofit organization, provided customized training for BHBF’s benefit specialists.

  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the public school district that serves Miami-Dade County, FL, informally partnered with BHBF staff by allowing them to help develop individualized education programs for BHBF participants and coordinate participants’ transition from school-based services to adult services.

  • The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the state agency that oversees vocational rehabilitation programs, had a cooperative agreement through which the agency would accept referrals for all BHBF participants.

  • The South Florida Workforce Investment Board (SFWIB) and the Business Leadership Network of Miami-Dade County (BLNMDC) provided access to job listings, a summer youth employment program, and other job opportunities to BHBF participants. SFWIB is the regional workforce development board representing Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties, and BLNMDC is a network of local business leaders in Miami-Dade County.

  • TransCen, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides training and technical assistance to disability service providers, provided technical assistance to BHBF staff on case management and work-readiness activities as well as the work experience and job development components of the intervention.

Staffing

One project director oversaw BHBF; the executive director of ServiceSource oversaw the project; and one project manager oversaw the day-to-day operations of BHBF and its staff. BHBF was composed of three core categories of staff:

  • CEDS had master’s degrees in human services fields or at least two years of experience providing services to individuals with disabilities. There were five CEDS between both offices when the intervention began. TransCen, Inc., provided training to CEDS on developing PCPs and providing case management services.

  • Benefit specialists had master’s degrees in human services fields or at least two years of experience providing services to individuals with disabilities. There were three benefit specialists when the intervention began. They completed a four-day training program through Virginia Commonwealth University on the delivery of benefits planning services and became certified community work incentives coordinators. TransCen, Inc., provided additional training to benefits specialists and technical assistance on providing financial education.

  • Employment specialists had experience working with employers to create employment opportunities for youth with disabilities. There was one employment specialist at the beginning of the intervention, with two more added in September 2011. TransCen, Inc., trained employment specialists on how to improve the job development pipeline.

Local context

BHBF was implemented in Miami-Dade County, FL. It was implemented in an urban environment that had a median household income and high school graduation rate far below state and national averages. Twenty percent of county residents lived below the federal poverty level, and 30 percent of residents with disabilities lived in poverty. The area’s economy (which had historically been driven by tourism but recently grew its international trade and banking sectors) was hit hard by the Great Recession of the late 2000s, when BHBF was implemented.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

BHBF was funded by the SSA through the Youth Transition Demonstration evaluation. This funding was available for the life of the demonstration, which ended in March 2012.

Cost information

The average cost per BHBF participant was $6,540 (in 2008 dollars). The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1