Organization
Organization Name: 
PACER Center
Organization Director: 
Paula Goldberg
Program Name: 
The Strategies for Workforce Inclusion and Family Training (SWIFT) Project
Street Address: 
8161 Normandale Blvd.
City: 
Minneapolis
State: 
MN
Contact
Contact Person: 
Paula Goldberg
Contact Title: 
PACER Executive Director
Contact E-mail: 
Program
Organization Profile: 

The PACER Center, Inc., located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the grant recipient, and implemented Project SWIFT (Strategies for Workforce Inclusion and Family Training). The Project SWIFT partners included Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, the administrative entity for the jobs and training programs operating in the Ramsey County Workforce Service Area under the authority of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners; and the Minneapolis Employment and Training Program (METP), a division of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development, which provides job training and placement services, including WIA youth services, through a provider system of community-based nonprofit agencies.

The PACER Center is a coalition of 18 disability groups serving youth with disabilities and their families. PACER projects include training and information programs for Minnesota families, educators, and other professionals, and three national technical assistance projects. The mission of the PACER Center is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.

Program Summary: 
Project SWIFT provided technical assistance and training to its partnering agencies in order to expand capacity to serve youth with disabilities, and conducted outreach and promoted awareness of services to parents of youth with disabilities. A toll-free phone line was set up to provide information and referrals to the public and to youth-serving agency personnel.
Program Structure/Design: 

Since Project SWIFT was not a direct service program, the major goal was for youth to receive direct services from partner agencies. Services provided by Project SWIFT included the following:

  • Training for staff of the WIA-funded youth employment and education programs to understand the needs of people with disabilities, laws that relate to employment for people with disabilities, and disability awareness.
  • Training for youth with disabilities and their families about how to prepare for employment and how to access youth program services that met their needs.
  • Technical assistance to 1) the staff of WIA-funded youth programs to increase their capacity to serve youth with disabilities in their inclusive program, and 2) other professionals helping to prepare youth with disabilities for employment, postsecondary education, and independent living.
  • Individualized information, referral, and telephone assistance to youth with disabilities and their families.
  • Information dissemination on Project SWIFT activities and products, as well as general information on services available to youth with disabilities in the WIA system.

Project SWIFT staff also fostered relationships between WIA agencies and other PACER advocates in order to help them better meet the individual needs of the populations they served. A PACER Native American advocate established communication with several Minneapolis programs to which she provided individualized assistance. A PACER Somali advocate conducted an in-service training for Minneapolis WIA youth staff on the challenges of working with Somali youth. In addition, PACER's Juvenile Justice Program Coordinator presented information on youth mental health to a group of community employment professionals. Project staff also met with state vocational rehabilitation administrators, special educators, and the staff of workforce centers in other workforce service areas and other Minnesota disability programs to raise awareness of Project SWIFT activities and promote relationships between the workforce development and the disability service systems.

The Project SWIFT staff provided information on transportation options and strategies to family members who called for help on this topic. Staff at Project SWIFT partner agencies helped youth served by the programs solve individual transportation-related problems. PACER Center's Simon Technology Center provided free individual consultation to youth with disabilities upon request. Project SWIFT provided WIA youth program staff with hands-on training and demonstration from a PACER Center's Simon Technology Center Assistive Technology specialist during staff training. Mental health issues were addressed in Project SWIFT's training for staff of WIA programs. Families and professionals calling PACER for information on how to access other health services were referred to PACER's Health Information and Advocacy Center, a PACER project funded by the Maternal Child Health Bureau.

States of Operation: 
MN
ODEP Funded: 
Yes
Profile Year: 
2007
Innovative Practices
Family Involvement and Supports: 

One of the objectives of Project Swift was to increase awareness of parents of transition-age youth with disabilities about the resources of WIA-funded youth programs, as well as assist families in their efforts to access these programs. Focus groups were conducted to determine the needs of youth with disabilities and their families at the outset of the project. Advocates who work with families of transition-age youth and with specific cultural populations were also consulted. The parent training addressed a broader range of issues than originally planned to reflect the input of youth and family focus groups.

From the information gathered during the focus groups, the PACER Center designed trainings for youth and their families about how to use WIA services. The staff also provided technical assistance to youth and families. The PACER Center responded to 316 individual advocacy and referral contacts from youth, adults with disabilities, parents and other caregivers. The parent-training curriculum was delivered to 91 parents over the two-year grant period.

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