Partnerships, Grant Bring First Project SEARCH to Rochester

Program Helps Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities Transition to Work World

A partnership among several local agencies has allowed Rochester to start its first Project SEARCH, a program that helps young adults with developmental disabilities transition to the work world by giving them hands-on experience. Coordinated by the Institute for Innovative Transition at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, which is funded by a grant from the Golisano Foundation, the program will begin in August with the help of Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES and The Arc of Monroe County and will be based at the University of Rochester’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.

A New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC) $100,000 grant will fund the first Project SEARCH program in Rochester and, with support from the Golisano Foundation, two additional Project SEARCH programs in Monroe County that are scheduled to launch fall 2010.

Project SEARCH is a national program that started in Cincinnati as a one-year, high school transition program, providing training and education for 18- to 21-year-olds with developmental disabilities. It serves as an alternative for students in their last year of high school with the goal of landing a competitive job upon completion.

“This is such a unique program in that it’s a business model that allows individuals with developmental disabilities to develop job skills that lead to competitive employment,” said Susan Hetherington, director of Project SEARCH at Golisano Children’s Hospital who holds joint appointments at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics, where she is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and education. “Gaining these employable skills is incredibly important to helping these young adults become more independent.”

Five days a week, 10 to 12 area school district students enrolled in the Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES will report to Golisano Children’s Hospital where they will learn job readiness skills in the classroom for two hours. They will spend the rest of the day developing those skills in an unpaid internship alongside a job coach provided by The Arc of Monroe County (or The Arc). The students will rotate through three internships during their year in the program. The internship opportunities include greeting families when they arrive at the hospital, asking parents if they need anything in the waiting rooms, doing office work in divisions of the hospital and cleaning and maintaining isolettes in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“We talk to so many families who become frustrated searching for employment opportunities for their young adults with developmental disabilities when they leave school. It’s a hard road between school and the working world and this program will help smooth that transition and ultimately help the students be more successful,” said Joe Kelly, Director for Exceptional Children Services at Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES.

The partnerships among BOCES, The Arc and Golisano Children’s Hospital are integral to the program’s creation and survival. Project SEARCH, after initial planning and start-up, is a self-sustaining program, using existing vocational training funding. Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES will identify potential students to apply for the program. Golisano Children’s Hospital will provide the space for classroom instruction and the internship opportunities. Job coaching provided by The Arc will lead the young adults down the path toward eventual employment, the ultimate goal of the program. At the end of the year, the hospital hopes to hire 60 percent of the students for paid competitive job openings

“The Arc is very excited to be a part of this innovative program because it aligns with our mission so well. We want these young adults to be as successful and independent as they can be,” said Barbara Wale, President and CEO of the Arc of Monroe. (For more information about the Arc of Monroe, visit www.arcmonroe.org.)

Project SEARCH is the first employment program launched out of the Institute for Innovative Transition. The Institute, which was created last year with funding from the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, aims to improve the quality of life for young adults with developmental disabilities and their families as they transition from school age to adulthood. The Institute is a collaboration of the Golisano Foundation, Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, and the Warner School of Education and is under the leadership of Martha Mock, director of the Institute who also holds joint appointments at the Warner School and in the Department of Pediatrics in the Medical School, where she is an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and education.



Tags: developmental disabilities, Golisano Foundation, Institute for Innovative Transition, Martha Mock, Susan Hetherington, transition