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.