Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE): The Role of PROMISE in the Landscape of Federal Programs Targeting Youth with Disabilities
- PROMISE programs are designed to improve connections among federal programs at the state and local levels to assist youth and families with accessing resources. The programs do so in three ways: (1) through collaborations involving major programs serving youth in transition; (2) by training staff, youth, and families about resources and program rules; and (3) by referring youth and families to programs.
- Despite the number and variety of federal programs available, youth with disabilities face many challenges in accessing and using them, such as navigating a fragmented, uncoordinated service system and inadequate preparation for postsecondary education and employment. Failure to overcome these challenges can limit the success of youth as they become young adults. The PROMISE programs’ services are intended to address many of these challenges in fundamental ways.
- The implementation of WIOA introduced changes to the landscape of federally funded supports for youth with disabilities. Though the PROMISE programs began operations before WIOA took effect, they have features similar to those required by programs subject to WIOA, so their experiences can inform WIOA implementation. Key lessons from PROMISE programs include: (1) The demand for transition services by SSI youth and families suggests that state and local programs could reach more SSI youth if they could identify them; (2) students receiving SSI might need additional services to supplement pre-employment transition services; and (3) competitive, integrated employment can be a realistic vocational goal for many students with disabilities.
Improving the educational and employment outcomes of youth with disabilities—and reducing their dependence on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—are high priorities for federal policymakers. To address these issues, the U.S. Department of Education, the Social Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Labor launched a joint initiative known as Promoting Readiness of Minors in SSI (PROMISE). The PROMISE initiative funds and evaluates model demonstration projects that promote positive changes for SSI youth, starting at ages 14 through 16, and their families.
In this report, we use information collected as part of the national evaluation of PROMISE to assess the role of PROMISE in the landscape of federal programs targeting youth with disabilities. First, we present the landscape of federal programs for youth with disabilities and explore how the PROMISE projects interact with federal programs. Second, we describe the challenges that youth and families face in accessing and using those programs and the ways that the PROMISE projects attempt to address them. Finally, we document the important changes to the federal service environment prompted by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the lessons from PROMISE that can inform WIOA implementation.
The experiences of the PROMISE projects in delivering services to SSI youth and their families can guide federal, state, and local programs in their delivery of transition services and responses to WIOA. Each PROMISE project works within state and local transition environments to affect systems change efforts, facilitate a wide range of services to a population facing numerous challenges in transition, and focus on postsecondary employment and education outcomes at a relatively early age for youth. Policymakers can draw on these experiences to help make decisions about serving transition-age youth with disabilities.