State: South Carolina
Agency: South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD)
Summary: The South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD) uses the Guideposts for Success (the Guideposts) as a framework for defining, developing, and tracking its youth transition services and programs throughout the state. SCVRD has chosen to use the Guideposts because it identifies proven strategies for meeting the holistic needs of youth transitioning from high school to employment, postsecondary education, and independent living. The Guideposts framework is comprised of five areas: school-based preparatory experiences, career preparation and work-based learning experiences, youth development and leadership, connecting activities, and family involvement and supports.
SCVRD first learned about the Guideposts by way of the High School/High Tech (HS/HT) Program, a comprehensive transition program model for youth with disabilities.HS/HT program sites use the various activities aligned with the Guideposts to expose youth with disabilities to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and encourage them to pursue postsecondary education to prepare for such careers. SCVRD learned about how Florida and other states were offering the HS/HT program statewide and decided to develop its own HS/HT pilot in 2005. The agency has since expanded the HS/HT program to 11 locations that serve multiple schools.
Designing a Demonstration Project
Based on the success of the HS/HT Program in South Carolina, SCVRD began to look for others ways to expand the delivery of high quality transition services based upon the Guideposts to transition-age youth during the high school years. South Carolina was awarded a federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) transition demonstration grant in 2007 to fund the Youth Employment Services (YES) program in several schools. SCVRD used the Guideposts to design the YES program activities led by SCVRD’s transition staff. Some of the Guideposts-aligned activities that SCVRD incorporated in all its transition services, including the YES program, are:
- Assessing the student’s strengths and interests by developing a Participant Profile consisting of personal, social, vocational and work history domains;
- Using the profile to help students create realistic employment objectives matching their strengths and interests;
- Exposing students to various career options and role models through career exploration activities (e.g. Disability Mentoring Day job shadowing, mentoring, and service learning);
- Helping students develop and practice soft skills through group activities with supportive peers;
- Engaging students in individualized work experiences while they are still in high school; and
- Promoting self advocacy and leadership skills development opportunities through participation in the state’s Youth Leadership Forum.
As a part of the demonstration project, SCVRD created agreements with the project schools to locate SCVRD’s transition staff within the school. This provided SCVRD’s staff with greater access to the VR-eligible students and opportunities to develop relationships with the youth, families, and school personnel. In addition to meeting with students one-on-one at school, SCVRD has found great value in engaging students in group skill-building activities.
Currently, SCVRD transition counselors conduct group activities with students at each school two or more times every semester. The counselors use Guidepost activities from the state’s HS/HT program. SCVRD also uses soft skills activities from “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success,” a curriculum developed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). The curriculum is available online at: http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/. Also see the High School/High Tech Program Guide online.
While the demonstration grant ended in 2012, SCVRD has since expanded its use of the Guideposts and continues this approach of delivering transition services in the schools. Through memoranda of agreement between SCVRD and each school district, every school in the state has an assigned SCVRD counselor who provides one-on-one services and group activities to eligible students. Seven schools have also agreed to blend funds with SCVRD which supports a designated SCVRD counselor or transition specialist at the school and student work experiences.
Assessing Existing Services and Identifying Gaps
To ensure that SCVRD’s transition services and activities align with the Guideposts, the agency created its own Transition Service Matrix (See Table 1 below). The matrix is a crosswalk of the Guideposts and SCVRD’s transition services and activities. Laura Spears, SCVRD Transition Specialist, says developing the matrix using the Guideposts has helped their agency to validate that the services their staff provide to transition-age youth align with what the youth need for successful transition in addition to what services the agency provides. Using the Guideposts in this way provides SCVRD with a rationale for what services it offers to transition-age youth. “It shows that we are meeting the needs of these students,” explains Ms. Spears.
The Transition Service Matrix has also helped the agency identify any gaps between what the Guideposts indicate youth need and what VR provides. NCWD/Youth developed the Guideposts with the recognition that no one agency or organization can provide for all the transition needs of youth and that collaboration across systems and service providers is necessary to effectively support youth. SCVRD’s identification of service gaps spurred the agency to strengthen efforts to connect the youth it serves to other available services and opportunities in local communities across the state. It also helped the agency identify some services and opportunities it could start to offer or increase in areas of unmet need. For example, SCVRD has prioritized providing a work related activity for every youth since it started using the Transition Service Matrix.
Training Staff on Proven Strategies Aligned with the Guideposts
SCVRD ensures that all its transition staff understand how to use proven strategies aligned with the Guideposts by conducting Transition 101 training every quarter. Any VR counselors assigned to provide transition services must attend the training, which includes an introduction to the Guideposts and the Transition Service Matrix. While other staff training may focus on agency policies and procedures, the Transition 101 training focuses on what youth need for successful transition and how to conduct services and activities to meet youth needs. Often SCVRD staff are accustomed to working with adults only so the training is valuable for helping them understand how serving youth differs and what strategies work well with the younger population. In addition to the introductory training, SCVRD conducts ongoing training with all transition services staff as well as quarterly video conferences to keep staff aware of program trends and available resources.
Making the Guideposts a Part of the State Data Tracking and Accountability System
Recently, SCVRD began incorporating the Guideposts into its electronic case management system within the counselor case notes. SCVRD’s counselors document the Guidepost area for each service they provide to youth. This has allowed SCVRD to begin tracking the services and opportunities youth are receiving by Guidepost area and identifying how youth outcomes may correlate with specific Guidepost activities.
In 2012, SCVRD analyzed data from its youth clients to evaluate the value of using a transition service model aligned with the Guideposts. The evaluation included comparing the performance of students with disabilities who participated in SCVRD’s intensive programs that use the Guideposts (e.g. HS/HT and YES program) with students with disabilities who did not participate in these programs. According to the report, “Outcome data from the YES program demonstrates higher graduation rates for program participants, lower drop-out rates, and higher rates of post-secondary education enrollment or achievement of employment after exiting high school. Through the use of a variety of Guidepost driven activities and work experiences, students not only maintain interest in completing school but also exit school better prepared to enter the world of work or post-secondary training/education.” The evaluation report is available online.
SCVRD also concluded from its analysis of the case notes data that the Guideposts-aligned transition services model has not been consistently implemented in schools across the state. Based upon its findings that the intensive Guidepost-aligned transition programs are producing positive youth outcomes, SCVRD has identified several actions for improving the quality of transition services going forward. These actions include: 1) increasing training for both SCVRD and school staff on effective practices based on the Guideposts, including effective collaboration strategies; 2) implementing a structured quality review to regularly monitor adherence to the transition services model; 3) conducting a capacity assessment to identify what staff and other resources are needed for optimal quality and to guide resource allocation decisions; and 4) developing resource optimization plans with transition services sites in areas with the greatest need for and potential for improvement.
One way SCVRD is increasing the consistency with which its staff implement the Guideposts is by redesigning the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) used for transition services. The redesigned IPE for transitioning students requires identifying services and activities in each of the Guidepost area in relation to how that particular service will address the student’s functional limitations. For example, in the Guidepost area of Connecting Activities, the IPE may include helping the student obtain assistive technology needed for successful employment if that student has a disability that requires that form of reasonable accommodation in the workplace.
SCVRD’s Transition Service Matrix: SCVRD Provided/Arranged Services by Guidepost Area
- ACE Assessment
- Career Exploration
- Workforce Trends
- Field Trips to Post-Secondary Training
- Job Seeking and Survival Skills Instruction
- Counseling And Guidance
- Guest Speakers
- Job Readiness Training
- On-the-Job Tryout
- Participation in Work Experiences provided through other entities
- Job Shadowing
- Site Visits to Industry
- Part-Time Jobs
Personal Development and Leadership
- Youth Leadership Forum (YLF)
- Junior Achievement
- Participation in Service Learning
- Participation in school sponsored extra-curricular activities
- Exposure to role models Mentoring
- Youth Leadership Activities, i.e. self advocacy, building confidence and, communication skills
- Disability History, Culture, and Policy
- Goal Setting
- Diagnosis and Treatment
- Rehabilitation Technology
- Post-Secondary Training
- Information and Referral to other Community Services Providers
- Personal Assistance Services
- Transportation Benefits Planning Tutoring
- Interpreter Services
- Occupational licenses, tools, equipment, etc.
- Job Placement
- Supported Employment
- Consultation with parent(s)/guardian(s) regarding assessments, services, progress and outcomes
- Communicating Transitioning Planning