Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
- Background and Purpose: Little is known about the inter-agency collaboration between child welfare and vocational rehabilitation (VR) service systems. Access to VR services may be important for transition aged youth in foster care given high rates of disabilities as measured by the use of special education services. Because few private child welfare agencies also provide state-funded VR services, the purpose of this study is to determine how transition aged foster youth can access VR services. We accomplish this purpose through the following specific aims: 1) Develop a process map showing the pathway(s) for transition aged foster youth with disabilities to enroll in Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS)-funded VR services to support employment, and 2) Identify barriers to VR referrals and enrollment for this population, who depend on employment for independent, community living after aging out of child welfare systems.
- Methods: Community-engaged, qualitative research was used to complete aim 1. We completed a series of group interviews and individual member checking with key stakeholders to iteratively generate a process map of how front-line staff at a prominent, urban child welfare agency refer clients with disabilities for VR services. A purposive sample of private, community-based agencies in Illinois, who have been contracted by the Department for Children and Family Services (DCFS) to serve transition aged foster youth will be surveyed to complete aim 2.
- Results: There are significant variations in VR referrals and service enrollment processes for foster youth with disabilities. Variations can be attributed to agency-level characteristics, mechanisms by which foster youth become involved with the agency, and preferences of individual VR counselors.
- Conclusions and Implications: Processes of referring and enrolling transition aged foster youth with disabilities in VR services are inconsistent and present many opportunities to enhance coordination and utilization of these evidence-based services for a high-need population. Further research is necessary with additional agencies across the state to identify root cause(s) of regional gaps in service referrals and enrollment of foster youth with disabilities, who have significant needs and can uniquely benefit from support for employment.