Interim Report on the Career Transition Program

By Thomas Fraker, Peter Baird, Arif Mamun, Michelle S. Manno, John Martinez, Debbie Reed, Allison Thompkins

The Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) is a large-scale demonstration and evaluation sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to improve understanding of how to help youth with disabilities reach their full economic potential. In particular, SSA is interested in testing promising approaches for helping young people with disabilities become more self-sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits. SSA has contracted with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), Inc., to develop and evaluate the YTD projects. MPR has assembled a team for the evaluation that includes MDRC, disability program experts from TransCen, Inc., and academic specialists.

The YTD conceptual framework, which was based on best practices in facilitating youth transition, specified that the six projects that participated in the evaluation provide employment services (emphasizing paid competitive employment), benefits counseling, links to services available in the community, and other assistance to youth with disabilities and their families. Additionally, the youth who received those services were eligible for SSA waivers of certain benefit program rules, which allowed them to retain more of their disability benefits and health insurance while they worked for pay. Using a rigorous random assignment methodology, the YTD evaluation team is assessing whether these services and incentives were effective in helping youth with disabilities achieve greater independence and economic self-sufficiency. The earliest of the evaluation projects began operations in 2006 and ended in 2009. The latest started in 2008 and ended in 2012.

In this report, we present first-year evaluation findings for the Career Transition Program (CTP), which served high school juniors and seniors, and youth who had recently exited school, in Montgomery County, Maryland. While it will take several more years before we fully observe the transitions that the participants in this study make to adult life, early data from the evaluation provide rich information on how CTP operated and the differences it made in key outcomes for youth. Specifically, the report includes findings from our process analysis of CTP, including a description of the program model, and documentation of how the program was implemented and services were delivered. The report also includes impact findings, based on data collected 12 months after youth entered the evaluation, on the use of services, paid employment, educational progress, income from earnings and benefits, and expectations for the future.

CTP was well implemented, conformed to the YTD conceptual framework, and provided youth with services to help them graduate from high school, obtain employment, and matriculate into postsecondary education programs. The process analysis showed that CTP enrolled 89 percent of eligible youth in the program and provided services to virtually all of the enrollees. On average, enrollees received 28 hours of services, 36 percent of which were directly related to employment, such as job development. Another 42 percent of service hours were for case management to resolve barriers to employment and education. The impact analysis showed that youth who had been given the opportunity to participate in CTP were more likely to have used employment-promoting services than youth in a randomly selected control group. Nevertheless, we found no impacts of the program on employment during the year following the entry of youth into the evaluation. Neither did we find impacts on income, expectations, or a composite measure of school enrollment or high school completion. We conclude that CTP was no more or less effective than the programs and services available to control group members at improving these outcomes during the follow-up year.

Fraker, Thomas, Peter Baird, Arif Mamun, Michelle Manno, John Martinez, Debbie Reed, and Allison Thompkins. 2012. Interim Report on the Career Transition Program. New York: MDRC.