The Road to Success

The Rehabilitation Services Bureau

September 2005


Human Diversity


In July the Iowa City Area Office had their report out for the Quality Assurance Process.One of the discussion items was the office performance on quality indicators related to cultural diversity.An employee reminded us that there are many factors that influence a person and mentioned concerns about working for a specific employer due to the contracts the Federal government awarded them to support the war efforts.While we were talking about cultural diversity at the time and that was our focus, I thought more about her comments later and realized that in my focusing so narrowly upon cultural diversity I failed to realize the point I think she was making.


Human diversity is a broad area with many content subjects imbedded within it.Each individual is influenced by human diversity and his or her response to the differences among us.In rehabilitation those individual differences have a great impact upon an individual’s success or failure.Recently while attending a meeting in which we were discussing human diversity and the importance of encouraging a student’s connectivity to school and community I was reminded of the disservice we make when we focus so narrowly upon only one aspect of the human condition.


During this meeting a gentleman representing cultural diversity announced to the group that there was no such thing as a deaf culture and that the importance of disability was only relevant according to the culture within which the person lived.While I was at first astounded at his boldness to proclaim that only ethnic or racial cultural backgrounds should be considered as the totality of human diversity, I was angered by his seemingly total lack of understanding that negating diversity of all levels besides one’s own agenda does nothing to further the cause of enhancing a sense of contribution and value on the part of all people.After unsuccessful attempts to advocate for disability as an element in human diversity with this gentleman I simply and matter of factly told him he “was wrong” and there was plenty of research on various topics I could provide to him if necessary.Ultimately the group did focus on all diversity, but this experience caused me to pause.


After the interaction with this gentleman I thought about the conversation with the Iowa City Office.That employee was right and I didn’t really understand what it was she was explaining.We must consider all of the diversity that enriches our communities.If we focus only narrowly on one aspect, we may miss the critical point that contributes to the success of our clientele.While as an organization we are compelled to track our performance on the 2.1 standard against which RSA measures our success, we must not lose sight of the fact that diversity encompasses so much more than the cultural backgrounds.Indeed, if we consider all aspects of human diversity (race, ethnicity, disability, age, creed, religion, etc.) we then have elevated our organization to what it espouses to become.An organization dedicated to individualized services with respect and consideration given to all persons regardless of their background.It is not in ignoring the various conditions of our human experience that validates us as humans, but it is in embracing human diversity and all subsets therein that elevates us as a dignified, ethical organization and community.


Thank you to the Iowa City office, and that employee in particular, who made the point and encouraged me to think about this beyond the 2.1 standard.


IRSS Progress

IRSS is continuing to progress with the assistance of various staff and classifications from the Rehabilitation Services Bureau and the Administrative Services Bureau.As of Monday, September 12th, the Eligibility module was approved by IVRS and submitted to Quilogy for development.Daily teams meet to work through the modules on Authorizations, Application, and Case Management, and each team member was given little or no notice of the meeting and yet they pleasantly responded. Next week a team of Counselors, one Supervisor, and one Rehabilitation Assistant will join the RSB Chief in working through the detailed components of Plan Development.The schedule for IRSS has escalated resulting in RSB being asked to make all IRSS activities a priority just behind client service delivery.Consequently staff arranged their schedules to spend an entire week in Des Moines, which will result in the finalization of the Plan Development module.During the week of October 10th a similar team will participate in further defining the components and details of Plan Reviews and Case Closures.


As you know there is plenty of work to do without the IRSS project.And yet these staff cleared their calendars so that the vital work could be accomplished and IRSS could move forward.RSB owes a debt of gratitude to these individuals who volunteered to participate so that IRSS would become a reality.IVRS also appreciates that Quilogy has realized the need to provide notice to RSB so that staff can adjust their schedules so that a variety of staff can participate in the process.Consequently IVRS still plans on seeing IRSS being implemented in early 2006.



Value of IVRS Partnership

By Connie Ehlers


Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services proudly shares highlights from the first year of the Improving Transition Outcomes local demonstrations in Council Bluffs, Hawarden, and Henry County. VR is a critical partner in the success of each local demonstration.


In Council Bluffs, Counselor Lisa Chellew partnered with a local high school teacher, in a Train-the-Trainer approach, to team-teach Job Seeking Skills. This partnership proved to be very valuable as other teachers requested the teacher help them incorporate this unit into their curriculum. One student, a client of Lisa’s and a senior, was offered a job after completing the Job Seeking Skills unit and just recently successfully closed Status 26 with natural supports.


In Hawarden, Counselor Randy Van Zee partnered with West Sioux Community School stakeholders to implement a curriculum developed specifically for youth with disabilities using the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation model. Randy’s expertise has been invaluable. Randy problem solves with the team and introduces the youth to VR services. As a result, school referrals to VR have significantly increased.††

In Henry County, Supervisor Ruth Allison and Counselor Christian Gapen have been instrumental in securing connections with the local schools. Ruth assisted with the focus groups and reviewed the interview information, helping organize the information for the “Sharing Key Discoveries” meeting with over 30 area stakeholders. One significant VR referral occurred during an interview when a youth who had dropped out and obtained her GED revealed that for the past four years she has been dealing with a major illness and “waiting until the magic age of 25” when VR could assist her. She couldn’t remember the source of this erroneous information but was given correct information and is pursuing VR assistance. Two other youth were immediately informed about VR services during their interviews.


Without VR participation countless youth would be ill prepared for the world of work. Communities would suffer from the resulting decrease in civic participation and an increase in public assistance. A remedy is dissemination of accurate information about VR services spread via the schools, youth, families, team partners and more! Just as an “ounce of prevention” is said to be “worth a pound of cure” strategic community participation by VR yields tremendous benefits for youth with disabilities preparing to transition to post-secondary education and/or the world of work.


First Year Progress


The three communities received funds to implement strategies and activities developed by local partners specifically for improving transition outcomes for youth with disabilities through the use of intermediaries. Intermediaries facilitate local partnerships and relationships essential to connecting youth to services, opportunities and supports for a successful transition to post-secondary education and/or the world of work.



Council Bluffs has successfully:

  1. Implemented E-Mentoring between more than thirty-five youth from six area high schools and employees from seven local employers
  2. Identified job shadow and work experience opportunities
  3. Recruited six youth to participate in the local Leadership Camp


Hawarden has successfully:

1.      Implemented the C.A.S.E. curriculum based on Boston Universityís Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation

2.      Opened the “Falcon Joe” coffee shop to provide entrepreneurial experience for youth

3.      Secured businesses for classroom presentations, job shadows and work experiences


Henry County has successfully:

  1. Conducted focus groups with youth and families and individual interviews with youth to identify “what is and isn’t working with transition”
  2. Conducted a “Sharing Key Discoveries” meeting with over 30 local stakeholders reviewing the focus group and interview results. A Strategic Plan and the appointment of key stakeholders to address specific issues resulted from this meeting
  3. Established a Youth Advisory Group of ten students with disabilities who have experience in the traditional high school, alternative high school, or GED program as either a current or past student


Next Steps


Grant funding was the spark that ignited community efforts. A year later it is imperative that the fire remains lit despite the probability of low fuel. Sustainability must be independent of grant funding. Determining the cost per youth and the overall community impact will be essential to marketing these interventions to other stakeholders in the community and securing ownership.


Along with recognizing their successes and acknowledging that they have learned several lessons during the past year, communities also have challenges. Council Bluffs has expertise in mentoring and connecting employers and schools; they want more youth/family involvement and to strengthen their connection with the schools. West Sioux has a strong school connection, expertise in youth participation, vocational curriculum and locally grown entrepreneurship; they want to implement mentoring. Henry County has expertise in conducting focus groups with youth and families; they want to implement vocational exploration and mentoring.


The strengths of one community appear to be potential resources for another. The collaboration that exists within the community teams now needs to extend to other teams across the state.Only by communities sharing “how we did it” with other communities will the State of Iowa achieve “healthy sharing, learning, recreation, goal-setting and problem-solving, not only for youth with disabilities but for all youth.”