• -0.05,3.00
  • 0.08,3.00

Transition WORKS aimed to empower youth receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and improve their economic self-sufficiency through a series of workshops focused on self-determination, education and employment services, case management, financial incentives, work-based experience, and job development.

Transition WORKS aimed to empower youth receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and improve their economic self-sufficiency through a series of workshops on self-determination, education and employment services, case management, financial incentives, work-based experience, and job development.

Transition WORKS participants completed an initial assessment and then participated in two person-centered workshops focused on self-determination (referred to as "self-determination workshops") in which they set goals and began to plan for their transition to employment. Participants and their families could take voluntary classes that provided information about and help assembling the paperwork to receive educational support and employment services, social and health services, and SSA benefits and waivers during their transition to employment. After participants completed the self-determination workshops, made a transition plan, and finished benefits planning, they began employment services such as career preparation, soft-skills training, job search assistance, job development and placement, job coaching, job tours, apprenticeships, internships, and paid employment.

Although Transition WORKS focused on employment, participants could also enroll in education services to support their future employment transition; education services included GED preparation, assistance with secondary or vocational school enrollment, and school retention support. Throughout the program, participants had access to benefits such as housing subsidies, tax credits, transportation and child care assistance, transitional health care through Medicaid, financial education, and case management. Participants also had individual development accounts, which allowed them to accrue wages from work and receive matching contributions from Transition WORKS. On average, Transition WORKS matched every $1 earned in wages to help participants achieve future financial goals without reducing their disability benefit. Finally, participants could receive job coaching and counseling from job developers after securing paid employment.

Participants could use Transition WORKS' services for 18 months. Transition WORKS served youth who were ages 16 to 25 and receiving SSA disability benefits. Transition WORKS was implemented in Erie County, NY. The evaluation of Transition WORKS also studied Broadened Horizons, Brighter Futures, which is another intervention aimed at improving self-sufficiency among youth who received SSA disability benefits.

Year evaluation began: 2007
Populations and employment barriers: Disability(ies), Young adults (aged 16-24)
Intervention services: Case management, Employment retention services, Financial incentives, 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): Tested in multiple settings

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 $188 per year 0.009 827
Long-term Supported favorable $1,673 per year 0.080 827
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 3% (in percentage points) 0.068 827
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 1% (in percentage points) 0.029 827
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $-58 per year -0.021 837
Long-term Not supported unfavorable $173 per year 0.063 827
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support favorable 28% (in percentage points) 0.557 716

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
43%
White, not Hispanic
32%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
9%
Asian
1%
Another race
21%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

The study examined services provided between January 2007 and December 2009. The Transition WORKS program was pilot tested before the start of the study, between 2004 and 2006. The program formally ended in December 2009.

Organizations implementing intervention

The Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) led implementation of Transition WORKS. Erie 1 BOCES is a regional public education services organization delivering academic and functional programs to 20 school districts in Erie County, NY. Erie 1 BOCES provided most services directly, including all education-related services, most employment services, and self-determination workshops. Erie 1 BOCES partnered with three community-based organizations (described in the partnership section below) to provide specialized service delivery

Populations served

Transition WORKS provided services to SSA disability benefit recipients ages 16 to 25 in Erie County, NY. The most common disabling condition was a cognitive or developmental disability (45 percent), followed by a mental illness (18 percent) or physical disability (18 percent). Most Transition WORKS participants were either White (55 percent) or Black (35 percent), and the majority (61 percent) were male, with an average age of 20. About half of the Transition WORKS participants were not in school, a quarter were attending a regular high school, and a quarter were attending a special or other high school. About one-third of participants reported a family income of less than $10,000; one-third reported a family income between $10,000 and $25,000; and one-third reported a family income of $25,000 or greater.

Description of services implemented

Transition WORKS emphasized youth empowerment, person-centeredness, and self-determination. Once enrolled in Transition WORKS, participants completed an initial assessment to determine their level of self-sufficiency, then participated in two self-determination workshops in which they set goals and planned for their transition to employment. Participants and their families could also take voluntary classes. The classes provided information about and help transitioning to work and assembling the paperwork to receive benefits waivers and other educational and health services.

After completing the self-determination workshops, making a transition plan, and finishing benefits planning, participants received employment services tailored to the employment-related goals in their individualized transition plans, meaning that the exact mix of services varied from one Transition WORKS participant to the next. Some employment services focused broadly on career exploration, whereas others focused more narrowly on job placement. Career exploration services included job tours, job shadowing, and informational interviews. Job placement services focused on placing Transition WORKS participants in apprenticeships and either unpaid internships or paid employment.

Although Transition WORKS focused on employment, participants could also enroll in education services to support their future employment transition, such as GED preparation, assistance with secondary or vocational school enrollment, and school retention support. Participants continued to receive job coaching and counseling from job developers as needed after securing paid employment.

To encourage employment, Transition WORKS provided SSA waivers, enabling participants to retain SSA benefits while pursuing paid employment opportunities through Transition WORKS. Transition WORKS offered incentives to participants for achieving self-sufficiency goals, such as setting aside money for savings in a federally funded IDA. Throughout the program, participants had access to benefits such as housing subsidies, tax credits, transportation and child care assistance, transitional health care through Medicaid, financial education, and case management. Lastly, participants received benefits counseling from program staff to help them understand SSA program rules related to work incentives.

The program was implemented as intended, with the majority (98 percent) of participants receiving some type of services from the program. However, many participants quickly disengaged from the Transition WORKS program and thus received minimal services—fewer than two hours in total—over the course of their 18 months in the program. Erie BOCES estimated that between one-quarter and one-third of participants were only minimally engaged in the Transition WORKS programs. Reasons for minimal engagement varied; some participants reported they joined the evaluation to receive the $10 gift card incentive but were not interested in receiving services, whereas other participants had family circumstances or transportation barriers that made attending Transition WORKS services challenging.

Service intensity

Transition WORKS participants were eligible to use program services for up to 18 months. The average Transition WORKS participant received 8 hours of services and connected with 10 different service contacts.

Comparison conditions

Participants were randomly assigned to Transition WORKS or to a comparison group. Individuals in the comparison group had access to services in their communities that were independent of the Transition WORKS program. Individuals in the comparison group did not have access to SSA waivers.

Partnerships

Erie 1 BOCES partnered with three community-based organizations:

  • The Parent Network of Western New York (Parent Network), a community organization led by parents with the mission of supporting youth with disabilities and their families, provided training on youth benefits and services to parents of youth participating in Transition WORKS.

  • The Neighborhood Legal Service (NLS), an organization providing legal services to low-income families and individuals with disabilities, provided benefits-planning trainings for Transition WORKS participants, including support with SSA waivers.

  • The Community Employment Office (CEO), a group of public and volunteer agencies in western New York promoting integrated employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, provided pre-employment services like resume writing and mock interviews.

Staffing

At Erie 1 BOCES, nine program staff supported Transition WORKS: one project director, one assistant project director, two transition coordinators, and five job developers. Additional staff at partner organizations included six benefits planners (three full time, three part time) at NLS, one employment specialist (full time) and one assistant (part time) at CEO, and several trainers at the Parent Network (all part time). The study authors did not include information on the training, degrees, or certifications of project staff.

Local context

The Transition WORKS program took place in Erie County, NY, which includes the city of Buffalo and surrounding rural areas. Erie County was economically depressed during the time of the study, with a larger proportion of residents with disabilities living below the federal poverty line than in the country as a whole.

Fidelity measures

The authors reported that the program was operated with a high degree of fidelity to the original program model but did not discuss specific tools to measure fidelity.

Funding source

SSA funded the Transition WORKS pilot and demonstration program.

Cost information

The average cost per participant for Transition WORKS was $5,232 (in 2008 dollars). This figure includes the cost of all resources used to run the program, including staff wages and salaries, fringe benefits, and overhead costs. 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