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The Road to Success

The Rehabilitation Services Bureau

February 2006


Documenting Impact of IVRS Cultural Diversity Initiatives

The IVRS Cultural Diversity team, under the leadership of Orville Townsend, has been active since 1994.  Over the years the team has initiated projects related to outreach, communication and interpretation, immigration, and internships.  Each area office and Disability Determination Services has representation on the Cultural Diversity Committee.  Most recently the team has analyzed caseload, census and staff survey data to arrive at Area Office plans to improve services to minorities. 

To assist in these efforts, IVRS has requested training and technical assistance from the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities (CCBMDR), a project funded through the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).   The Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) seeks to increase the capacity of State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies (VR) and other agencies serving minorities with disabilities to document the impact of their programs and develop culturally competent services. This effort is conducted in order to promote positive rehabilitation outcomes for minority individuals with disabilities.

Dr. Fabricio Balcazar and Dr. Christopher Keys from the Center met with members of the IVRS Management Team and some of the Cultural Diversity Committee in May 2005.  They provided an overview of the various research and training projects at the Center.  After further discussion with the Diversity Committee, we asked to participate in a couple of the projects.

On January 30-31, representatives from the Polk County, Davenport and Waterloo Area Offices attended an introductory session.  Dr. Christopher Keys and Dr. Yolanda Suarez Balcazar assisted the group in a participatory process to building their capacity for conducting program evaluation and improving services to our consumers from minority backgrounds. Specifically as a result of participating in this project, we will learn to:

1.     Identify program and consumer needs through a participatory process

2.   Frame the issues/state the goals of their program

3.     Develop a program logic model

4.  Identify evaluation questions and methods for answering these questions

5.  Document the program services the organization provides and their impact

6.  Interpret findings for program improvement and report findings to funders and other stakeholders

7.  Utilize evaluation findings to make services more culturally competent.

Each office stated a goal and then identified objectives, listing their inputs, outputs and outcomes.  Then they listed the indicators for the outcomes, where they would find those indicators, and how they would collect and analyze the results.  Next steps are to finalize the plans, with input from others in the Area Office, and then to begin the implementation.  Dr. Keys and Dr. Suarez Balcazar will participate in telephone conferences and quarterly meetings to discuss progress and challenges with the implementation, as well as analysis of the results.  The results should assist the offices to determine changes in practice, services and/or policy that are indicated from the program evaluation results.  Future issues of Road to Success will provide updates on this very interesting project.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee – Education

Recently the IVRS Administration presented to the Education Appropriations Subcommittee on budgetary projections for Fiscal Year 2007. The presentation was very well received and generated a great deal of discussion. Of significance were the stories that staff obtained for the presentation. Those stories made a significant impact in sharing with our legislators the work that we do and the impact we have on the lives of Iowan’s with disabilities. One representative in particular asked for the contact information of the client so that he could write her a personal note encouraging her in her progress and expressing his appreciation for her dedication to make her life better.

The importance of receiving these stories cannot be stressed enough. They give a face to the data, they truly explain why a Master Degreed Counselor is critical to serving Iowan’s with disabilities. One example of the stories that show the impact of the counselors’ work was emailed to me by a client of Warren Larson:



Hello. My name is Loretta J. Graham from Alta, Iowa. I have been a client of Warren Larson in the Storm Lake, Iowa office of IVRS. I wanted to express my gratitude for the help that I have received from him and how the services provided to me helped me excel in the workforce.

First, I want to give you a small amount of background concerning my severe disability with mental illness. I have been severely mentally ill since I was very young. For many years, this impaired my ability to get a job and keep a job. I could have easily thrown in the towel many times and applied for SSDI, but my doctor thought I should keep trying to stay employed.

Every job I had, I would have acute spells of depression and conflict with co-workers and supervisors. I was unhappy a lot of the time.

One day, I was referred to Warren and I began to work with him. At first, I just listened and tried to apply what he was helping me with on the job. He was always professional and courteous. He made himself available to me when I was going through a crisis on the job. He taught me skills that helped me remain stable on the job. Many of them were things that I would have never thought of or implemented myself had I not had his guidance. As trust is a big issue to me, I found myself beginning to trust Warren due to his constancy and consideration of my feelings. Then I began to soar on the job. He taught me how to handle stressors, what problems to avoid with supervisors and who to talk to when I felt that I could not talk to my boss. He taught me to keep my illness down to a dull roar and how that the less attention I attracted toward myself with inappropriate behaviors, the better off I would be.

I am now working at the same place for 5 years and have recently been given a much more responsible position. My supervisor told me that she can "relax" knowing that she has me doing this job, as I do such a great job.

I really believe that I would still be stuck back there, being unhappy at work or on disability if it were not for the help I received from Warren through IVRS. His help has been invaluable and has assisted in raising the quality of my life and those of my clients.

I just wanted to express my thankfulness for the help that I have received.

Please feel free to share this letter with anyone who might benefit from reading it. I would be willing to talk to others who would want to hear my thoughts concerning the impact that Voc Rehab has had in my life.

You have my permission to release my letter to anyone who might benefit from reading it.



Loretta J. Graham