Sep 30 2011

WI-BPDD Awarded Employment Grant for Youth with Disabilities

Posted by BPDD at 10:21 AM
- Categories: BPDD | DAWN Website Updates | Miscellaneous | Press Releases

Let’s Get to Work project will bring $1.8M to state

The Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (WI-BPDD) has been awarded a $1.82 million five-year federal grant designed to improve employment outcomes for transition-age youth with disabilities.

The grant, which was awarded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, will fund the Let’s Get to Work project with a goal of developing and implementing policies and practices that will elevate community expectations and overall employment outcomes for youth with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The project will analyze data gathered from school pilot sites and develop strategies for dissemination of policies and practices, grassroots advocacy, and implementation. Ultimately, the project will embed findings into existing policies and practices at the local, state, and federal levels, resulting in sustainable, improved employment and self-sufficiency outcomes for youth with I/DD.

In Wisconsin, individuals with I/DD enrolled in the adult long-term care system have community-based employment rates of only 9-14%.

“This is a terrific opportunity to start while youth are still in school in providing them the opportunities and skills they need to be career and college-ready when they graduate,” said Beth Swedeen, WI-BPDD Executive Director and Principal Investigator for the project.

“Nationally, we know that when people with disabilities are employed in the community, their quality of life is improved and they contribute to the state’s economy and use fewer tax-funded public services. It really is win-win.”

The project will be guided by the broad-based Let’s Get to Work Consortium that includes, among others, the Department of Health Services, the Department of Public Instruction, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The project will be managed by the WI-BPDD. The grant will span five years and total $1.82M.

This grant was awarded just before October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). To recognize NDEAM, the WI-BPDD is mounting the Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign to acknowledge and celebrate Wisconsin workers with disabilities. For more information about the campaign, go to


Tom Bergerud

Tom Bergerud wrote on 10/11/11 3:26 PM

Congratulations on this important grant. Getting high school age kids with special needs connected to work by the time they graduate is critical. Please be aware that there are many community rehabilitation organizations, including ours, that are actively leading and collaborating with schools to make this happen. As example, the Threshold is currently working with four school districts in our area in our program called "I Am Going To Work" to create the outcomes you describe. We also have our area technical college involved, providing an employment prep course, with future plans for them to add specific skill/trade based courses geared to the learning needs of these students. Community Rehabilitation Organizations (CRPs) currently provide more than 65% of the job development and support services DVR purchases and most of the long-term supported employment assistance DHS purchases through Family Care, IRIS, etc.. Please accept our offer and opportunity to tap into the expertise and experience CRPs represent, and have represented for many years, as you develop implementation and data gathering strategies.
Beth Swedeen, executive director

Beth Swedeen, executive director wrote on 10/25/11 9:27 PM

CRPs and other agencies and individuals who are providing job supports so youth and adults with disabilities can access and succeed in integrated jobs at competitive wages are part of our grant and involved in the statewide leadership team, as well as having signed on to our memo of understanding. It is unfortunate that untrue information about the intent of this project, namely to close down existing support agencies, have been circulated. This misinformation unnecessarily scares individuals and their families, which is the last thing BPDD would ever want.
Vicki Pfister

Vicki Pfister wrote on 11/22/11 9:20 AM

RCS Empowers has a strong partnership with all of the school districts in our county to prepare and transition high school age youth from school to employment in the community with a seamless transistion to natural supports and/or adult services. We would be glad to share our experiences with you and partner with you to assist more youth in gaining employment in the community.

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