In many communities across the U.S. today, adults with significant disabilities, as well as Special Education students and their families, have a choice of community employment service providers. Making that choice can be confusing and time consuming, but success as an adult (i.e. having a career you enjoy, making friends, belonging to your community) is directly tied to the efficiency, innovation, and leadership of the organization you choose.
In our work at Griffin-Hammis Associates approximately 90% of our primary and secondary customers are Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) and they represent tremendous folks, working hard everyday to change, to improve, and to build community (e.g. Easter Seals of Southern California; VIA of the Lehigh Valley; Cobb Community Services Board in Georgia; Progressive Employment Concepts in Citrus Heights California; Common Ground in New Hampshire; RISE in Utah, just to name a few). However, this is a rather small percentage of the almost 5,000 adult service agencies in this country. Listed briefly below are some questions to explore when interviewing potential providers, and some thoughts on what progressive agencies are doing. Most agencies will not have achieved all these points, but significant organizational attention should be focused on their accomplishment.
- Does the CRP have proper Financial Management and Transparency?
- Is there Majority Governance?
- Does the organization have a rigorous staff Continuing Education program?
- Is the CRP actively Divesting in its “Parallel Systems?”
5. Does the CRP have a Commitment to the accumulation of Social Capital?
Considerations: Social Capital, defined as “the social networks and the norms of trustworthiness and reciprocity that arise from them,” is a powerful predictor of many social goods, including people’s health and happiness, levels of economic development, well-working schools, safe neighborhoods, and responsive government (Harvard, 2006). CRP leadership should be engaged in an active and planned social capital campaign that engages its staff and consumers in creating opportunities for collaboration across major community sectors. The CRP should be working with civic groups, neighborhoods, employers, financial sectors, government, and others to create capacity for inclusion throughout the community.
- Does the CRP have a plan for the Future?
- Does the CRP develop Leadership at all levels?
- Does the organization support Living Wages for all?
Considerations: The fact is that making ends meet in a CRP is tough. At issue here again, is the effort leadership makes to right the problem, increase salaries for staff and consumers, reduce turnover, and increase investment in personnel (Easter Seals of Southern California is especially adept at creating new funding sources for staff development and consumer support). Keeping quality staff requires an on-going investment in education, wages, benefits, and autonomy. Ask about the turn-over rate for staff and whether the agency sees the issue as “just normal for our industry” or as a serious problem they are taking steps to address. Are there both monetary and non-monetary reward programs to enhance staff retention? Does the agency see “coverage” as the issue, or are they truly invested in developing a team of the best and brightest that assists consumers in achieving their goals? Are efforts being made to enlist and pay families, friends, or neighbors to provide support?
- Does the organization demonstrate Cultural Competence?
- Does the organization embrace Inventiveness?