Absence of conflict of interest.
The study's objective was to examine the impact of Wisconsin PROMISE (Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income) on youth employment, earnings and wages, and education and skills gains among youth with disabilities receiving supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.
This study was a randomized controlled trial. The study drew on a variety of data sources, including service data, administrative data from the PROMISE management information system (MIS), engagement/service completion data, employment data, and educational attainment data. The authors compared the outcomes of PROMISE-enrolled youth to those of the comparison group.
Youth who received PROMISE services had higher employment rates (10 percentage points higher) than those in the control group. There were no differences between groups in terms of the proportion earning SGA-equivalent wages for at least one quarter, or in terms of post-secondary enrollment.
This study received a high evidence rating. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Wisconsin PROMISE, and not to other factors.
Features of the Intervention
PROMISE is a joint demonstration project of the US Departments of Education (DOE), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL). Six such demonstration programs were funded, with each implementing and studying evidence-based practices to address challenges to financial independence, education and employment outcomes among youth with disabilities receiving supplemental security income (SSI) benefits. SSI recipients between ages of 14 to 16 were eligible to enroll in the PROMISE demonstrations, which were funded for five to six years beginning in October of 2013.
Across the demonstration programs, PROMISE Interventions focused on improving service provision and coordination for youth SSI recipients and their families. The intervention was designed to make sure SSI youth were connected to appropriate available services and supports, and also provided funding to support youth in accessing these services.
In Wisconsin's PROMISE program, counselors delivered case management to help youth and families navigate services and connect with needed supports. PROMISE counselors received training in motivational interviewing and trauma-informed care. Services included educational, employment, and financial self-sufficiency services and supports such as self-advocacy training, social skills training, paid work experiences, work incentive benefits counseling, and financial coaching. Family members of enrolled youth could receive similar services through a Family Service Plan (FSP) connected to the youth's service record.
Features of the Study
This study was a randomized controlled trial. Eligible youth were entered into an online random assignment system to determine whether or not they would receive PROMISE services or services as usual. Wisconsin PROMISE enrolled 2,024 teenagers receiving SSI from a list of eligible youth (from the Social Security Administration). Of those enrolled in the study, 1,018 were randomly assigned to the Wisconsin PROMISE group and 1,006 continued services as usual. The services as usual group received information about Wisconsin’s usual transition services.
All participants had a documented disability of some type. One-third (34 percent) of treatment group participants self-reported a mental health or behavioral primary disability, 30 percent reported a developmental or intellectual primary disability, 25 percent reported some other kind of primary disability (e.g., learning, speech, ADHD, etc.), and 11 percent reported a physical disability (e.g. long-term illness, mobility, sensory, head injury, etc.). Nearly half (49 percent) of treatment youth were African American, 36 percent were white, and 10 percent were Hispanic. The treatment group was also predominantly male (67 percent), and two-thirds of participants were living in a single parent/guardian household. The majority (70 percent) of treatment families reported an annual household income at or below $25,000. Eighty-four percent of treatment youth had an Individualized Education Plan at the time of their enrollment.
The study drew on a variety of data sources, including service data (benefit specialist contacts and service hours, work incentives, family advocate activities, case notes, etc.), administrative data from the PROMISE management information system (MIS) (case note tags, list of participant family members, service completion dates, educational attainment, etc.), engagement/service completion data, employment data (Wisconsin UI wage data), and educational attainment data from the National Student Clearinghouse (post-secondary enrollment and attainment). The PROMISE MIS also included other useful data such as employment services provided through Wisconsin’s Job Centers, Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) and Youth Apprenticeship reporting data, Medicaid data, including long term care and mental health services, information on food share participation, and family and child welfare data, including Wisconsin Works (cash assistance) data. The authors used statistical tests to compare the outcomes of PROMISE-enrolled youth and their families to those of the comparison group.
- Youth who received PROMISE services were significantly more likely to be employed at some point during the study period (67%) than those in the usual services group (57%).
Earnings and wages.
- There was no difference between groups in the percentage of youth who earned SGA-equivalent wages for at least one quarter during the study period.
- Youth who received PROMISE services and who received usual services were equally likely to enroll in a post-secondary program during the study period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors note that WIOA implementation occurred at approximately the same time that PROMISE enrollment and service provision commenced. Because WIOA services were available to both the treatment and control group, the authors suggest that it may have reduced the overall impact of PROMISE by improving usual services. In addition, the authors note that, prior to PROMISE, the service system more typically served adults. It took some time for PROMISE service providers to adjust to serving a younger population, which also may have weakened the impact of the intervention. They suggest that further data collection over a longer time period is needed to confirm the long-term impacts of PROMISE on education, employment, and financial self-sufficiency. Consequently, they describe the results of this study as early findings.
Causal Evidence Rating
This study received a high evidence rating. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Wisconsin PROMISE (Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income), and not to other factors.