Customized Employment Project: Georgia
The ODEP grant brought three people in on staff who are working under the direction of the grant and supported employment director of the Cobb County Community Services Board (CCSB). Two customized employment brokers provide direct services to grant participants through the Individualized Training Account (ITA) and other best-practice supported employment efforts such as vocational profiling. A third customized employment broker carries a smaller caseload and works within the OneStop, CobbWorks!, Inc., to support and implement systems change.
Project Exceed's ITA is modeled directly after the ITA system within CobbWorks!, Inc. This support system, however, has been customized to fit the more varied needs of the people served by the project. A diverse set of funding categories has been outlined, with the ability to manipulate those guidelines in order to maximize the effectiveness of these services. The agency is able to pull funds down directly within three to four days, which allows for more efficient support. The ITA will be used to support consumers in their employment endeavors. Funding will be planned and coordinated in conjunction with available support from Social Security benefits and Work Incentives as well as with the Department of Rehabilitation Services. Categories range from transportation stipends to coverage for business equipment and professional consulting services.
The grant has coordinated a minimum of two days of training each month with various experts in best practice supported employment methodology. This training has been open to the community and has ranged in topic from vocational profiling to business plan development to Social Security Work Incentive use. This training has not only provided staff with a solid foundation in best practice strategies but has also set up a network for input and resource sharing with experts in the field. We have been fortunate to develop an ongoing working relationship with Griffin - Hammis Associates, LLC, in which we can maintain a dialogue about our policies and practices. As a result of work with consultants at Virginia Commonwealth University, WorkWorld software is being customized to Georgia state benefits programs and benefits, and Social Security Work Incentive profiling will be yet another service CobbWorks!, Inc. has to offer to its customers.
Consumers of a diverse set of economic, social, racial, and disability profile are being served in a variety of ways by the project. People are starting micro-enterprises and business partnerships, returning to school, setting up resource ownership arrangements, and finding wage employment. Some have existing paths and others are forging paths with appropriate supports.
This project is fortunate to work with many devoted partners. The partnerships are developed and maintained in monthly meetings at CobbWorks!, Inc. We are working towards some system and service approach change within CobbWorks!, Inc. To this end, we have identified some access (physical, systems, social, and other forms) points for attention. We are also looking at integrating our work with the Cobb Micro Enterprise Council with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation system. The Tommy Nobis Center is moving ahead with their portion of the grant and has hired a mail services instructor and has begun to take referrals for the mail industry training program. The pilot project, attached to but not funded by the grant, has successfully taken on the progressive person-centered approach and moves steadily towards placing members of the day MR/DD program in the community.