Youth with Disabilities Demonstration Project

(ODEP Demonstration Program)

Organization Contact Information / Project Contact Information / Innovative Practices / Project Details

Organization Contact Information

Name of Organization Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County
Director of Organization Kris Stadelman
Contact Kris Stadelman
Street Address 2003 Western Avenue, Suite 250
City Seattle
State WA
Zip Code 98121-2162
Phone Number 206-448-0474
FAX 206-448-0484
Email Address
Website Address
Organization Profile

The Workforce Development Council (WDC) oversees the WorkSource (One-Stop) system in King County, Washington, linking its own employment and training efforts with those of the private sector, community organizations, colleges, labor groups, and government. Its mission is “to champion a workforce and learning system that enables the Seattle-King County region to be a world leader in producing a vibrant economy and training opportunities for all residents.” One-Stop WorkSource centers and affiliates throughout King County offer information and resources, in addition to active job matching, and development of jobseeker skills and training to fit business needs. For youth, WDC leads a comprehensive youth development system that includes internships, mentoring, work-based learning, and job opportunities.

The WDC is a private, nonprofit organization with an annual budget of approximately $20 million. Funding comes from the Department of Labor and other federal agencies, as well as from private foundations.

A major focus of the WDC is to serve the workforce development needs of businesses and employers. The WDC system provides a wide variety of business services throughout the county. The WDC also plays a critical role in convening industry, education, and labor leaders around industry-specific issues, finding solutions to the problems identified by the partners.

The WDC’s core business is to improve the ability of King County’s workforce to meet the demands of industry. Adult jobseekers are served through the One-Stop career center WorkSource sites and through many innovative programs designed for specific populations and needs. The WDC’s youth programs serve youth aged 14 to 21 (youth over 18 can be served in the adult programs as well) and prepare them for continuing education and the workforce.


Project Contact Information

Grantee Project Name Youth with Disabilities Demonstration Project
Contact Dan Fey
Street Address 2003 Western Avenue, Suite 250
City Seattle
State WA
Zip Code 98121-2162
Phone Number 206-448-0474
FAX 206-448-0484
Email Address
Website Address

Innovative Practices

Program Structure/Design

The Youth with Disabilities Demonstration Project was intended to complement and support existing youth programming under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) for in-school and out-of-school youth. Youth programming is administered through contracts with community-based organizations and with the school system for in-school youth. The programs provide services as outlined in WIA around the 10 program elements. It targeted youth with hidden disabilities including those with mental health needs and learning disabilities. This project was viewed as a logical extension and enhancement to earlier work that was done around learning disabilities. The overall objective of the project was to identify and provide additional support and services to those youth, ages 14-21 enrolled in WIA-supported youth programs with mental health care needs. WIA youth case managers identified youth potentially in need of mental health care and referred them to care coordinators who were hired for this project. The State of Washington Learning Needs Assessment was developed and used with participants to detect hidden disabilities or mental health issues that would require more formalized assessment. A referral form completed by case managers described areas of concerns. Two assessment tools – the Casey Life Skills Assessment and the Child and Adolescent Strengths and Needs (CANS-MH) assessment tool were used to identify youth needs and develop individual service plans for youth with mental health issues. Linkages were established with mental health agencies so that youth in need of services could be referred.

During the demonstration program, the WDC also sponsored system-wide trainings for partners to learn about person-centered planning. The curriculum proved so successful that WIA staff began to implement person-centered planning with all of their youth enrollees. In addition, in order to increase staff awareness about hidden disabilities in youth 14-21, staff were trained regarding disability systems, screening tools, disability law, and youth development.

Workforce Preparatory & Work-based Experiences

The WDC works with its board of directors and Youth Council membership to ensure that youth have access to job shadow experiences and site visits. WDC youth programs also work with the local “Employment Action Resource Network (EARN)” – a pre-existing interagency partnership focused on youth employment. EARN brings together multiple youth serving agencies throughout King County to provide a consolidated approach to career exploration, internship/job development, and job placement/retention. EARN’s mission is to help youth and young adults successfully enter the workforce by advancing the skills of young people, employers, and employment professionals through the sharing of resources, best practices and advocacy. The ability to combine resources for this service provides for efficiencies and effectiveness, such as one contact for each employer to liaison with all partners, one employer database, one group to organize job fairs, field trips, career shadowing, etc. EARN has a strong base of over 150 supportive employers, and continues to develop new relationships.

A number of youth participated in Digital Bridge and or Youth Build which included internships. These internships led to competitive employment opportunities.

Individualized & Support Services (Connecting Activities)

All WDC youth subcontracting agencies provide support services to enrolled youth. Support services include, but are not limited to the following: transportation assistance through bus passes, tuition, books, and supplies, clothing, temporary housing needs, formal disability assessments to diagnosis disabilities and accommodations, and health and nutrition assistance. If a young person needs additional support services, each contractor can provide those services or can make referrals to other agencies in the community.

Comprehensive guidance and counseling is provided by case managers and instructors. Counseling is wrapped into youth development activities. These services include support groups, violence prevention training, self-esteem development, and leadership development. Adult mentoring is provided through long-term relationships between youth and staff, who interact on a daily basis in most cases.

For the demonstration project, case managers identified youth with potential mental health care needs and completed a form for referral to the care coordinator. The care coordinator then completed an assessment using a tool called the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS-MH). This tool was designed to be used as an assessment tool for use in making decisions around treatment and support services. It was also used to measure individual progress and assess the quality of services provided. For more information on this tool, go to When a youth was discharged from service, a follow-up CANS-MH was also completed to document the change over time.


Project Details

Project Summary

The focus of this project was on building model partnerships among WIA programs and the behavioral health system of care in order to better serve youth enrolled in WIA programs. As a result of this project, WDC representatives joined an existing partnership, the King County’s System of Care Partnership, which is an inter-agency group addressing linkages between the mental health system, K-12 education and community-based agencies. Mental health, developmental disabilities, public health, several local school systems, juvenile justice, child services and the United Way are among the agencies and organizations represented on the Partnership. The System of Care Partnership, largely comprised of policy-makers from represented agencies, discussed eligibility requirements, cross training needs, sharing of information, and addressed barriers that young people and disability advocates were experiencing in trying to access multiple systems. Additionally, grant partners worked directly with a local youth mental health and substance abuse provider to ensure that all enrolled youth in this demonstration project could receive access to comprehensive mental health and learning disability assessments as needed.

Through the project, two care coordinators were hired to assist case managers in identifying youth with mental health needs, developing individual service plans and assessing the mental health services that youth needed to successfully participate in WIA-supported youth programs.

Project Services

WDC youth programs serve more than 2,000 young people across King County each year. Programs are administered through subcontracts with competitively selected agencies and organizations. Services are coordinated with the One-Stop WorkSource Centers. A wide array of services are available to eligible youth. These services include those that prepare youth for academic and workplace success, develop leadership skills, and provide supportive services that are needed to participate in program offerings.

WDC subcontracting agencies use a number of methods and criteria to determine the needs of eligible customers with disabilities. For youth interested in enrolling in one of the WDC's youth programs, a designated staff person asks about special education participation in the public school system. If a young person has had previous special education involvement, this staff person works with local schools to get pre-existing assessments and Individualized Educational Plans. This information is then used for appropriate placement and for customized services in a WDC program. The initial assessment focuses on each customer’s service needs, goals, and barriers to success, motivation, and potential services. During the initial phase, each youth undergoes a test of basic skills to determine the appropriate educational strategy. Assessment is ongoing to ensure that services meet individual needs. Based on the assessment, staff and the youth develop an individual training plan that outlines the young person’s short/long-term goals and barriers to success. At regular intervals, the case manager and customer go back and review progress towards each action step and goal. When goals are achieved, new goals and steps are created.

Youth staff assesses basic skills through either the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment System (CASAS) or the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). Both of these tests have pre- and post- measures that staff use to determine basic skills needs (at intake) as well as basic skills gains (during and after educational services). Some instructors also use the educational curriculum provided by the U.S. Basics organization to determine academic progress and for teaching. The U.S. Basics system uses the TABE test at entry to diagnose basic-skill deficiencies and needs, and allows the educational staff to use a wide variety of texts, projects and software, including individualized tools, to teach students and track progress. The State of Washington Learning Needs Assessment is used with participants to detect hidden disabilities or mental health issues that would require more formalized assessment. Youth studying for the GED are given structured tutorials and practice tests.

The demonstration project targeted youth with hidden disabilities including those with learning disabilities and mental health needs. The purpose was to identify these youth, evaluate their disability, and provide appropriate treatment and support. The definitions for mental health needs consisted of diagnoses from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-4R), the reference diagnosis used by medical providers. Case managers identified youth who potentially had mental health needs. These youth were referred to the care coordinators, hired by this project, for evaluation and referral to appropriate services. The referral form, developed for this project, describes areas of concern based on staff observations for the youth. Youth participated in individualized and tailored care planning sessions. These planning sessions resulted in an individualized, strength-based plan of care for each participating youth.

Data Collection and Use

The Washington State management information system for WIA programs. which is called SKIES (Service, Knowledge, Information, Exchange, System), collects the following information on enrolled WIA participants: demographic, work history, education history, program enrollment, services provided during enrollment, job placement, and certificates and credentials attained.

In order to support data collection, management, and use by the demonstration project staff, the evaluation for this project emphasized simple tools and partnership between evaluation and project staff. The following strategies ensured that data were reliable, accurate, and timely:

  • Selection of data collection tools for assessment and planning that were clinically relevant and low in burden to staff.
  • Development of a set of tools, the data collection approach, and the schedule were guided and approved by a governance team for the project. This team included representatives from all project partner agencies.
  • Training, with periodic boosters, on use of instruments was provided for project staff.
  • Ongoing support and consultation by evaluation staff was provided to project staff.
  • Quarterly data collection by evaluation team members took place on-site at project partners’ locations.
  • Quality checks on data took place every quarter, following data collection. Problems with data completion were addressed with the collaborative project leadership team.

Quality improvement strategies were developed collaboratively and implemented by both project and evaluation staff members. Data analyses were designed to be clear and simple enough for project staff to take over once the formal evaluation and demonstration period ended.

The data supported project planning by providing quarterly summaries of youth referrals along with the demographics and other characteristics of youth being referred and served. These data allowed demonstration project partners to monitor the identification and referral process, and to target outreach and awareness training to staff members who needed it. Periodic pre/post outcome analyses allowed project leaders to know whether the project was improving the outcomes for youth involved.

The WDC, in its role as convener and coordinator of demonstration services, included the evaluation team at all collaborative leadership meetings. Project partners were encouraged to examine project data, and use data to make decisions around program improvement. The success of this strategy was demonstrated by the changes and improvements to both project and data management that occurred throughout the project. For example when a project partner voiced concerns about specific data collection approaches, the collaborative leadership team worked together to modify the approach.

Project Plans and Outcomes Below are project goals/objectives and relevant outcomes.
Project Goals/Objectives and Relevant Outcomes
Relevant Outcomes
Create a youth disability and WIA planning body composed of disability service providers, governmental agencies, WIA staff, and youth. A working group was established and continued to meet on a monthly basis throughout the project. In addition, the WDC is represented on the King County ’s System of Care Partnership, an inter-agency group addressing linkages between the mental health system, K-12 education and community based agencies.
Evaluate currently existing research-based hidden disability screening tools and select appropriate tools to be used by pilot projects. The Steering committee selected the Washington State Learning Disability Screening Tool, the Ansell Casey Life Skills Assessment, and the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS-MH) assessment tool for use in this project.
Develop a plan for interagency relationship building, including staff cross training and inter-linkages between disability programs. The Steering Committee developed a plan for interagency relationship building, including staff cross training and inter-linkages between disability programs. Outreach to community advocacy organizations continued after the grant ended.
Increase staff awareness of hidden disabilities in youth ages 14-21. Training to include disability systems, screening tools, disability law, and youth development. Based on staff surveys, knowledge and skills increased to better identify youth in need of additional services and strategies to link youth to those services.
Test the function of a staff intermediary position for WIA in-school and out-of-school youth, linking WIA youth programs with appropriate disability service providers. Two care coordinators were hired and provided services to agencies operating both in-school and out-of-school youth programs. They provided training to staff on mental health manifestations and coordinated training on other topics by local area specialists (e.g. suicide prevention and learning disability screening). Care coordinators linked with K-12 special education departments to procure pre-existing diagnoses on out-of-school youth and ensured that appropriate accommodations were inserted into the overall WIA youth case management plan.
Design and implement person-centered/youth centered planning principles for in-school and out-of-school pilot projects. Empower youth with disabilities to be better self-advocates. Person centered planning (PCP) teams were established for out-of-school youth participating in WIA programs. PCP teams focused on youth strengths and goals. Team members put plans in place to help young people move ahead in their education and vocational goals. WIA staff found the PCP methodology so helpful that they began to implement PCP with all WIA youth enrollees, not just those enrolled in this demonstration project.
Develop, pilot, and test alternate ways of measuring WIA outcomes for youth with disabilities. Emphasize education, employment and retention outcomes. Performance measures for youth with mental health disabilities were expanded to measure improvement on the clinical assessments conducted by the care coordinators.
Increase direct referrals to disability service providers: incorporate disability recommendations into WIA youth case management services; increase placements and outcomes for youth involved in pilot projects. 75 youth were referred, assessed and helped to access needed services through the project.
Develop alternative diagnostic reports for use by case managers. Incorporate diagnostic results into clear work plans for youth case management in WIA. The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strength (CANS-MH) diagnostic and assessment tool provided information on the service needs of the youth and their family for development of an individual plan.
Other Outcomes
In-School Youth Out-of-School Youth Total

















Completed Services

Placed in employment

Average wage

Received High School Diploma/GED













Attained skill goal in service plan

Basic Skill

Occupational Skill

Work Readiness















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