Interim Report on Transition WORKS

By Thomas Fraker, Alison Rebeck Black, Arif Mamun, Michelle S. Manno, John Martinez, Bonnie O'Day, Meghan O'Toole, Anu Rangarajan, Debbie Reed

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 developing and testing promising approaches for helping young people with disabilities become more self-sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits. The YTD conceptual framework, which is based on best practices in facilitating youth transition, specifies that the six projects participating 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, participating youth are eligible for SSA waivers of certain benefit program rules, which allow them to retain more of their disability benefits and health insurance while they work for pay. Using a rigorous random assignment methodology, the YTD evaluation team is assessing whether these services and incentives are 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 will end in 2012.

This report presents first-year evaluation findings for the Transition WORKS YTD project, which served youth disability beneficiaries in Erie County, New York, including the city of Buffalo, from February 2007 to December 2009. While it will take several more years to fully observe the transitions that youth participants make to adult life, early data from the evaluation provide rich information on how Transition WORKS operated and the differences it made in key outcomes for youth. Specifically, the report includes findings from a process analysis of Transition WORKS, including a description of the program model, how the project was implemented and services were delivered, and the project’s fidelity to the YTD model. The report also includes impact findings, based on data collected 12 months after youth entered the evaluation, on the use of services, paid employment, participation in education, income from earnings and benefits, and attitudes and expectations.

In brief, Transition WORKS was a well-organized, cohesive project that broadly conformed to the YTD program model and focused on self-determination, benefits planning, employment, education, and case management. The project enrolled 83 percent of eligible youth and provided most of them with some services in each of these components. The median duration of services directly delivered to participating youth was lower for the employment component than for several of the other components; however, the impact analysis found that youth who had been given the opportunity to participate in Transition WORKS were more likely to have used services to promote employment than youth in a randomly selected control group. Nevertheless, the project had no impacts on youth employment during the year following random assignment — nor on income, expectations for the future, and a composite measure of school enrollment or high school completion.

Fraker, Thomas, Alison Rebeck Black, Arif Mamun, Michelle Manno, John Martinez, Bonnie O'Day, Meghan O'Toole, Anu Rangarajan, and Debbie Reed. 2011. Interim Report on Transition WORKS. New York: MDRC.