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Customized Employment


Policy Summary — Customized Employment in Alaska's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Policy

1. Summary of the Policy

Alaska's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) system, named the Alaska Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP has begun to offer elements of customized employment (CE) to the families they assist. Though this initiative began as a pilot in 2009, it transitioned to general implementation under the Families First model. Families on the Families First track (see below) can receive CE services, including Discovery, having a profile created, and assisting them with Negotiated Job Development.

2. What is the function of the policy that promotes the principles of Customized Employment?

The Alaska Division of Public Assistance (DPA), the agency that funds ATAP services, offers Customized Employment as a service to families they serve on the Families First track.

3. Where is the policy housed?

The policy is housed within the Alaska Division of Public Assistance agency, which offers ATAP services.

4. Whom does it impact?

Within the Division of Public Assistance, Customized Employment can be offered to families on the Families First Track, but not to those on the Work First track. The Work First track is for families in immediate need of employment. Thus, the planning time required by Customized Employment does not address the family's needs. The Families First track allows families the time needed for coordination of the resources available through various agencies that work with them. This track includes support from a wide variety of professionals, including teachers, foster parents, and vocational rehabilitation providers.

5. What have been the costs?

Funding from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the Center for Human Development at the University of Alaska Anchorage have supported capacity building and training throughout the state to ensure that these services are available broadly and at a high level of quality.

6. How sustainable is the funding?

The funding is very sustainable, as CE services are being offered as a part of the state's ATAP options. Thus, these services are just as sustainable as any other service offered through the Division of Public Assistance and its partner agencies.

7. How has the policy been implemented?

Customized Employment services are provided by DPA community service providers. Considerable time and resources have been committed to CE, self-employment, and the Families First discovery model. Training was offered to providers, American Job Center staff, Division of Public Assistance and Division of Vocational Rehabilitation employees, and other professionals related to ATAP service delivery. These other professionals include teachers, foster parents, and violence and abuse counselors.

Capacity building has occurred through partnerships with Employment for All, Marc Gold and Associates, and the technical assistance centers of the CE and Start-Up USA grants funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office on Disability Employment Policy. The level of adoption of CE in providers throughout the state remains mixed, but the use of CE elements as an option in service delivery is increasing.

The revised ATAP work services procedure manual integrates CE principles of Discovery, portfolio development, and negotiation for employment.

8. What were the challenges in implementing the policy?

In the early stages of the process, some counselors and providers had reservations about CE and Discovery, based on the increased time commitment. This challenge has largely been addressed through the provision of ongoing training and capacity building.

9. What were the successes in implementing the policy?

The preparation time and support provided to the state through the CE and Start-Up Alaska grants have been essential to the success of this venture. These grants allowed the state time and resources to test and prove the efficacy of these practices, and to begin introducing them to counselors and providers. Collaboration with the state's Medicaid Infrastructure Grant gave the partnering agencies more resources for training and capacity building, and more time to reach providers and assist them in adopting CE techniques.

10. What are some recommendations for other systems?

The most important aspect of successfully adopting CE techniques and strategies is to invest the time to document outcomes. Though this process is time-consuming, it is an important part of justifying and ensuring the long-term sustainability of these policies and practices.

11. Copy of Policy

Public Assistance

Division of Public Assistance Work Services Procedure Manual:

This manual has been updated as of March 2013. The definitions of Discovery and Negotiated Job Development are in Section 1001. Section 1023 describes the procedure for Discovery and Profile development and includes examples of individuals. Section 1024 describes the Employment Meeting that follows Discovery. Section 1026 describes development of a Portfolio for use as a representation tool for presenting a candidate to an employer. Section 1027 addresses negotiated job development from initial contact with the employer through hire date.

See manual attachments for detailed Discovery, Profile and Portfolio procedures:

This manual remains a work-in-progress and will be updated periodically. The manual will be posted on DPA web page under the heading of "Program Manuals." It is in your best interest to use the most updated version at all times. Maintaining a hard copy of this document is not recommended.

The Alaska TANF State Plan identifies Customized Employment strategies as part of their Families First policy, and is highlighted on pages 15 and 19 in the Alaska TANF state plan:

12. Contact Information

Nathalie M. Stout
Division of Public Assistance
Program Coordinator II, Work Services Technical Assistance, Policy
Phone: (907) 269-7874
Fax: (907) 269-5219