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Richmond Customized Employment Project:
Leveraging Resources

07/2007

Project Overview

Grant name, number, and location: Richmond Customized Employment Project, Richmond VA, #E-9-4-2-0095

Grant recipient: Training and Workforce Corporation (WIB and One-Stop Operator)

Project lead: Richmond Career Advancement Center (One-Stop)

Subcontractors: Virginia Commonwealth University (training and technical assistance), Richmond Area Public Schools, Virginia Business Leadership Network, Goodwill Industries, United Way (a facilitator of PATH planning and parental involvement), Division of Rehabilitative Services (jointly funded a navigator position and a youth transition project)

Key Lessons/Accomplishments

While the Richmond Customized Employment project did not experiment with individually directed funds, it did create an innovative model for shared service resource allocation (click here for more information). As part of systemic customization, the project created a process that allowed customers to access as many of the various service pools as possible within the Richmond Career Advancement Center and its immediate partners (click here for more information on the process).

This process began with a joint enrollment form (see referral guide and universal referral form) that acted as the basis of the necessary enrollment paperwork for every agency. Agencies requiring more than the basic information could attach it in a separate form rather than using an entirely different form or populating the interagency form with unnecessary information. In this way, the client's file was easily transferable and sharable between agencies, and so the client could more easily access various services with a minimum of waiting and red tape.

To ensure confidentiality, in addition to repeated verbal discussions, customers were asked to fill out a form detailing exactly which agencies would be allowed access to their information, which was thereafter updated and signed off on with every new referral. Therefore the ease of transferability did not compromise the system's security or confidentiality.

For customers with significant support needs who were assisted through person-centered planning techniques, the One-Stop first arranged a preparatory meeting between all the various partners to determine which would participate in each case and who would take the lead, based on the expressed needs and goals of the individual. This made person-centered planning meetings much more streamlined and efficient, and gave every participant a clear concept of their own role in the process. Of course, participants could change as the individual's employment process and relevant needs progressed. The One-Stop was developing a system to allow considerable information-sharing between partners to ensure continued engagement from all parties.

The Division of Rehabilitative Services Funding and Services Support

Through the course of the project, the Division of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) contributed staffing and funding to the overall One-Stop, and to the Youth Workforce Investment Network transition project (You WIN) in particular. Its presence in the One-Stop and collaboration on providing a part-time navigator increased the flexibility and effectiveness of the system as it sought to serve individuals with significant disabilities.

Including DRS funding was not without challenges, but each side was committed enough to engage in a lengthy MOU creation and revision process to establish these various agreements. For the youth project, it was clear that, first, the Richmond Career Advancement Center's project was highly effective for all youth, and could be more effective for youth with disabilities if more significant resources were applied to customization and individualized services. (As a whole, the youth project was very large, and did not allow in-depth individualization for each student.) Further, it was documented that as many as 60% of the youth in the project had documented disabilities, thus creating a clear incentive for DRS's involvement.

The principal difficulty was finding a dividing line between the generic services of the Richmond Career Advancement Center's youth project, which was meant to serve all eligible youth, and DRS's mandate to serve only individuals with significant disabilities. At first, it seemed to each side that their missions conflicted: the one overly broad, the other inherently exclusionary. But after some time, discussion, and documentation of the percentage of students that participated in the project and would otherwise be eligible for DRS standard transition counseling services, the partners agreed that funding from DRS to expand the project and better accommodate students with significant disabilities would be both justified and in each agency's best interest. Furthermore, the school system remained significantly committed as this project also represented the bulk of its transition work. Certainly, while the collaboration took significant effort and trust on all sides, the resulting project was far more effective than what one staff person described as "transition by way of hand-off" from the school to DRS and/or Richmond Career Advancement Center.

As such, while the project did not allow individually directed funding accounts, customers were allowed a much wider range of access to the available resources than would be the case if they had to approach each agency individually.

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