Fraker, T., Black, A., Broadus, J., Mamun, A., Manno, M., Martinez, J., McRoberts, R., Rangarajan, A., & Reed, D. (2011). The Social Security Administration’s Youth Transition Demonstration Projects: Interim report on the City University of New York’s Project. Report submitted to the Social Security Administration. Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research.
- This report presents an interim implementation and impact analysis on the City University of New York (CUNY) Youth Transition Demonstration Project (YTDP). The program sought to maximize economic self-sufficiency and independence for youth disability insurance beneficiaries by improving their employment and educational opportunities. The program targeted youth ages 14 through 18 who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and resided in Bronx County.
- The study examined implementation of YTDP at two CUNY campuses, focusing on major aspects of service delivery, including the background, local context, and service environment of YTDP. It also provided information on beneficiaries’ characteristics and satisfaction with the program. The study used qualitative analysis of staff and beneficiary interviews, including data collected from site visits; and descriptive quantitative analysis of beneficiaries’ baseline and follow-up survey data and service utilization data from a management information system.
- The study found that youth beneficiaries had access to all of the services in the conceptual framework. Many began receiving individualized services before participating in structured workshops. However, education-related and person-centered services were among the less-intensive service offerings.
- Study findings related to implementation challenges and solutions are potentially applicable to other current or future projects that provide employment-related services to youth with disabilities.
The Youth Transition Demonstration Projects, The City University of New York
Features of the Intervention
The YTDP in Bronx, New York, was one of six project sites using a randomized design as part of the larger Social Security Administration-sponsored the YTD, which intended to help youth with disabilities become more self-sufficient and improve their employment outcomes. From 2006 to 2010, CUNY’s John F. Kennedy, Jr. Institute for Worker Education implemented the YTDP project to SSI beneficiaries ages 14 to 19 with severe disabilities. YTDP provided events and information to engage parents and family members; group activities, workshops, and benefits counseling; and individualized employment services. A guaranteed summer job was a key component of the program.
All YTD participants were also eligible for waivers that (1) extended the student earned income exclusion to all YTD participants who attended school regardless of age, (2) increased the earned income exclusion to a $1 reduction in SSI benefit for every $4 earned above a base amount, and (3) delayed benefit cessation for YTD participants determined ineligible for benefits after a benefit review or age-18 SSI medical redetermination. The curriculum-based program began in early October of each year for a new cohort of enrollees. The core curriculum, which consisted of workshops held on Saturdays, lasted 11 months, after which beneficiaries would have to seek follow-up services proactively.
Features of the Study
The implementation portion of the study sought to describe whether the demonstration, as implemented by CUNY, tested the service intervention as conceived by the Social Security Administration. In doing so, the study described the major aspects of implementation, including the local context; inputs, resources, and partnerships; service delivery, including dosage; and beneficiaries’ characteristics and satisfaction with program services. The implementation study drew on program documents, site visits, interviews with managers and staff, focus groups with beneficiaries and parents, telephone interviews with staff, and service provision data from the evaluation’s management information system. The study included both CUNY campuses that implemented YTDP and was conducted from August 2007 through August 2009, with site visits conducted each year.
The study found that CUNY implemented the YTD model as designed. Beneficiaries had access to all of the services in the conceptual framework, including benefits counseling, person-centered planning, and structured workshops. However, the study found that the core service delivery model of 11 months was shorter than intended in the conceptual framework, and that summer work experience was limited, both in duration and in the ability of counselors to match beneficiaries to appropriate work activities.
The program operated in a challenging context, but compensated for some of these challenges through leveraging resources and employing a strong staff. The Bronx constituted an economically depressed environment, and although an array of services existed for youth with disabilities, these services were found to be duplicative, fractured, inadequately staffed and funded, and difficult to access. To implement YTDP, the grantee was able to leverage CUNY facilities and a grant to provide benefits counseling, and relied heavily on part-time and temporary staff. The study found that staff were demographically representative of and had experience with the target population, and were personally invested in the program. There was little turnover and staff were retained and promoted throughout the life of the program.
CUNY YTDP was able to offer at least one service to all 387 enrolled beneficiaries. Of these, 87 percent attended at least one workshop and, on average, beneficiaries attended at least 9 workshops, with nearly 25 percent attending 16 or more workshops. Further, 93 percent received a benefits planning service and 60 percent attended a person-centered planning session. Nearly all (99 percent) received case management services, 92 percent received an employment-related service, about half participated in summer employment, and 70 percent received an education-related service. Despite the core service model being shorter in duration than intended, most beneficiaries found the program to be meaningful. Staff reported that they thought youth would have benefitted from more structured, proactive assistance in finding longer-term employment.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study clearly identified the research question and topics of interest and explored an array of data sources to explore these topics. It included a systematic description of findings and effectively illustrated findings with case studies, quotes from interviews and focus groups, and descriptive quantitative management information system and survey data. Qualitative and quantitative data were triangulated, but the study did not include a thorough description of data collection, data analysis, and data quality control. The study findings are potentially applicable to other current or future projects that provide employment-related services to youth with disabilities; however, the absence of information on methods and analysis makes it difficult to determine the extent to which the findings reflect the average program experience.