Lessons for Programs Serving Transition-Age Youth: A Comparative Analysis

For nearly three decades, U.S. public policy regarding youth with disabilities has moved toward greater inclusiveness; yet even so, existing policies cannot ensure that these youth have smooth transitions into adulthood, especially if they receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability benefits. To address this issue, Mathematica health researchers Lorenzo Moreno, Todd Honeycutt, Stephanie McLeod, and Claire Gill are examining the barriers that inhibit a large portion of young Americans with disabilities from transitioning into adulthood with gainful and stable employment. The team has identified four salient sets of barriers that prevent youth with disabilities from accessing support systems that would facilitate a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood:

  • Insufficient employment supports (only 3 percent of youth with disabilities ages 14 to 24 exit services from vocational rehabilitation agencies in a given year)
  • Few services targeted specifically to the needs of youth and young adults
  • Issues with access to adult services, a result of the adult service landscape’s fragmentation—service agencies and benefit programs have different and varied eligibility requirements
  • Insufficient coordination of the transition from youth to adult services

To identify policy solutions that will assist youth with disabilities in overcoming these barriers, the Mathematica team undertook an extensive literature review of the broad range of programs and policies that the United States and 10 other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries are using to provide income support and vocational rehabilitation to transition-age youth with disabilities. As a result of this literature review, the researchers identified programs and policies that promote independence—specifically employment—among program participants and that develop successful linkages among programs to coordinate targeting of, access to, and transitioning from youth to adult services.

Read more in the working paper.

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