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AL-APSE, Association for Persons Supporting Employment First

Best Practices

Best Practices in Supported Employment

Family is Important

Because the family is so important both in assisting the customer with employment as well as being a tremendous resource of support options that may be available, including them in the supported employment process and encouraging their involvement are crucial.

For some individuals, parents or a family member may not be involved in their life while others may have very close ties. It must be determined by the customer based upon his or her relationships with other persons as to who will be involved in the assessment process. What is important to consider is that in regards to going to work, the individual's entire life, including family members, must be an essential part since everyone in that family unit is likely to be affected. Families have their own lives, schedules, and priorities, and while going to work is a number one concern, the reality of day-to-day life and circumstances outside of work are major factors for them.

Finding out their expectations, dreams, and life routines are a critical element that cannot be ignored. Often family members are viewed as not wanting their son or daughter to go to work and therefore, labeled as resistant and not supportive. The reality is that they may never have considered employment before because all their life they have been told that their son or daughter won't work. Perhaps, they are concerned about their family member being able to perform the job, fitting in with the other co-workers, the permanency of the position, transportation, loss of Medicaid/Medicare, or safety.

It is important to remember that many of these family members may never have heard about supported employment or the employment specialist and are expressing concerns that are quite valid particularly under traditional vocational rehabilitation models. They may present a very different picture if once informed of the information which employment specialists have to share. Be prepared to respond to family member concerns regardless of whether they are spoken or not.

The truth of the matter is that parents may not know what to ask or may be interested but not want to jeopardize their daughter or son's chances of going to work or may feel they know the answer but have been misinformed in the past. It is important for you to share information in a way they can understand so that an informed choice can be made.

Many of the issues are addressed by simply describing the job coaches' role and explaining what he or she is responsible for. For example, throughout the entire process, the ability to do the job, getting along with co-workers, safety, and responding to supervision can be alleviated by knowing what the employment specialist will be doing. Other issues, such as scheduling, hours, transportation, after work activities, alternative arrangements should the job not work out, and the responsibilities of the family, can be addressed during the assessment process by finding out what the family would like and the range of options that would be satisfactory for them.

Finally, one of the greatest concerns, namely health insurance, should be discussed in depth with estimated calculations completed indicating the effect work would have on benefits, arranging and/or accompanying on a visit to Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare in order to accurately determine the impact of employment, and finding out their needs to be considered during job development (e.g., full or part time employment, company-sponsored medical insurance).

Because the family is so important both in assisting the customer with employment as well as being a tremendous resource of support options that may be available, including them in the supported employment process and encouraging their involvement are crucial.

Just as with the customer, take time to get to know the family by visiting them at home on several occasions. What the employment specialist is presenting to the family can be overwhelming not to mention that some very important decisions are being asked of them all of which cannot be expected to occur with just one meeting.

Take time to build a relationship by sharing information, describing who the employment specialist and organization are, encouraging them to share their dreams, finding out their expectations, asking their opinions, and exploring the resources they rely on. If family members seem hesitant, slow down and give them time to think. Keep the channels of communication open by telephone and additional meetings to allow opportunities for questions and more detailed explanations.

An excellent way to foster family support is to arrange linkages with other parents whose sons or daughters are working and can describe first-hand what their experiences were like and the benefits they encountered. Another suggestion is to conduct a parent resource night with written materials, slides and/or videos, speakers who are individuals and family members involved with supported employment, presentations by other agency representatives, and a period for questions and answers.

Family Resources

T-TAP (Training and Technical Assistance For Providers) - Fact Sheet: Q & A on…Customized Employment In this Issue: Addressing Parental Concerns,

PEATC - The website of the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center has resource links and information on transition, disability, communication, IDEA and much more,

PEATC: Guide to Future Planning - a planning guide to help students with disabilities take the lead on a team that includes family, educators, adult service providers and others working on developing a successful plan for adult life,

National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability/Youth Homepage - information and resources for finding out more about participation in programs under the Workforce Investment Act,

VCU - NTC WIPA - Fact Sheets on Supplemental Security Income and Age 18 Redetermination, and Student Earned Income Exclusion,

Source: VCU - RRTC on Workplace Supports

AL-APSE, The Network on Employment

PO Box 240691
Montgomery, AL 36124

This site is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities