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Anoka County Transition and Customized Employment:
Leveraging Resources


Project Overview

Grant number, name, and location: Anoka County Transition and Customized Employment (TCE), Anoka County MN, #E-9-4-1-0076

Grant recipient: The Anoka County Workforce Council (Workforce Investment Board for Anoka County)

Project lead: Anoka County Job Training Center

Subcontractors: Anoka County Workforce Center, seven local school districts serving Anoka County, Anoka County Social Services, PACER Center, University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration, and Rise Inc.

Key Lessons

The TCE project leveraged a blend of federal, state, county, and secondary education funding to support its role offering Customized Employment in transition. In an uneven and dynamic funding system, TCE worked to make services accessible to all students with disabilities who needed them. Project staff mapped resources specific to each student's situation (disability, geographic location, and other eligibility factors). The project worked hard to use all available resources at the secondary-education level and to tap adult service resources when appropriate (some adult resources could not be used until matriculation from school). Each TCE partner was responsible for managing and addressing its own funding needs. However, agencies made efforts to support one another, and, where possible, to collaborate on projects that met mutual needs.

The Introduction of AmeriCorps

The TCE project introduced new ideas such as the use of AmeriCorps members to support the job placement of individuals with significant disabilities, specifically a multi-agency partnership of several community providers named Work in Progress (WIP) (click here for more information). A formal grant application was made to ServeMinnesota, the local commission that administered AmeriCorps in Minnesota.

WIP's original grant application to ServeMinnesota was forwarded to a national funding competition administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service. TCE addressed the high unemployment, underemployment, and social segregation of Minnesotans with significant disabilities in the interagency grant application. In 2003, TCE learned that the application had been funded for three years. The majority of AmeriCorps members provided one-on-one mentoring to support each program participant's employment or community integration goals.

The AmeriCorps member services augmented employment and community supports for participants at the WIP partner agencies. TCE staff planned to leverage resources from this project to sustain job placement efforts after the grant ended in September 2006. They developed contracts that ran past September 2006 for two of the school districts originally involved with this project. Funds for these contracts came from the school districts. Staff planned to recruit an AmeriCorps member to work with students from these school districts to carry out Customized Employment activities and enhance opportunities for the most challenging-to-employ students.

The Ticket to Work

The Ticket represented a more challenging example of leveraging resources. At the time of this writing, Rise Inc. had not been reimbursed for any Ticket services it had provided since enrolling as an Employment Network. Rise was working to improve its performance with the Ticket to Work program. It was a slow process, and this resource was not viable for all youth served by TCE unless major changes were made to divert youth and young adults from accessing Social Security disability benefits.

However, the Ticket was an example of agencies leveraging any and every resource available. Rise had independent agreements with Minnesota Rehabilitation Services and the Anoka-Hennepin School District to support youth with disabilities. Rise also had multiple contracts with Anoka and Hennepin Counties to deliver supported employment for adults with disabilities based on specific disability eligibility (e.g., developmental disabilities, serious and persistent mental illness, traumatic brain injury, Deaf/hard of hearing). Finally, examination of the use of the rehabilitation option called Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services for young adults with mental illness was in process. This funding source did not allow traditional job placement services but did offer resources for skill-building with eligible young adults.

Individual Examples

TCE tapped funds from a variety of sources to meet specific service needs of participating youth. For example, the launch of customized training at the technical college involved discussions and resources from secondary and postsecondary education as well as the project. TCE used resources from secondary education sources and Rise to launch a microenterprise involving youth from multiple school districts.

Virtually all enrolled youth accessed multiple funding streams due to the collaborative nature of the service design (click here for more information). Only "out-of-school" youth with no connections to secondary education or adult services accessed project-only funding.

Rise Inc. provided self-directed services but did not use any funding for Customized Employment that was self-directed. The agency was building services (such as the Ticket to Work) that would increase self-directed options in the future, but at the point of this writing there was no mechanism for the individual to control these funds. Thus, individual service provision funding was both provided on a case-by-case basis and institutionalized through agreements. The agreements were directed by multiple administrative entities between schools and various adult services based on eligibility agreements and funding requirements. Some agreements were flexible and disability neutral; others were very specific and limited who could be served.

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