Melwood's Community Support Services supports more than 1200 children, youth and adults with differing abilities to work and play where and how they choose.
Melwood’s Vocational Support Services program provides work support to individuals of differing abilities, so that they are encouraged to transform their own lives. Specifically, our goal is aid persons of differing abilities (functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive, physical and emotional impairments/disabilities) to transform their own lives by experiencing personal development, career growth, community integration, and improved financial capacity. We serve over 800 employees throughout the Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia areas on various military bases, government buildings and grounds as well as commercial sites performing document conversion and destruction, custodial, fulfillment, administrative and landscaping.
The program includes a strong focus on skills development and growth including services in:
How do we do this? Vocational Support Services identifies potential barriers and develops a plan of action to make the person as successful as possible. The Individualized Plan includes their strengths, abilities, and personal goals and addresses potential barriers through improved skills, self-advocacy, or navigation of community resources.
At Melwood, this work is carried out by a highly trained team of Vocational Support Case Managers and Specialists. Vocational Support Specialists operate with an average caseload of 55 employees. Vocational Support Case Managers have greater experience in the field and are paired with Vocational Support Specialists, whom they mentor and whose caseload they supervise.
The process begins prior to work interviews and job placement. Vocational Support Services meets with each prospective job candidate of differing abilities in order to help identify well-matched job opportunities by assessing the individual’s interests and needs. Vocational Support Services also works to identify any reasonable accommodations that may be necessary for the individual to succeed (e.g. screen magnifiers, lighter weight vacuums, color coded towels, checklists, modified/assisted devices, etc.). Once a job match is made, Vocational Support Services works with the individual to develop a plan for success. Progress is assessed and necessary changes are made through regular counseling sessions that employ a solution-focused approach to responding to challenges and crises.
Vocational Support Specialists educate supervisors on how to apply repetitive activities leading to task mastering or to identify risk behaviors needing immediate responses. For example, an employee exhibiting sudden changes in behavior where daily tasks that are usually completed are not finished would be assisted by a Vocational Support Specialist. The supervisor would request support from the Vocational Support team to help him/her understand the behavior and problem solve towards completing daily tasks through trainings and repetitive activities. Additionally, Vocational Support Specialists would assess identified risks and develop a safety plan. At the end, there is a continued conversation to follow up and follow through to ensure safety and employment retention success. Successes are discussed and nurtured in order to maximize job performance. These counseling sessions are provided both directly (e.g., face-to-face) and indirectly (e.g., over the phone, by e-mail, etc.).
It is important to note that the role of the Vocational Support Specialist is primarily to help the program participant overcome his/her own challenges, rather than to simply remedy the situation. To that end, the Vocational Support Specialist often teaches program participants how to manage their behavior and conflicts by walking away and calling them to talk it through role play, listener-speaker techniques, and modeling. This will empower program participants to de-escalate inappropriate behaviors at work. It teaches program participants to explore available support systems in their lives to problem solve issues arising personally or at work. It promotes motivation to navigate systems and services available in their communities. These often include issues relating to transportation, affordable housing, and government benefit programs such as Social Security Disability Insurance or Veterans Administration Benefits. When necessary, the Vocational Support Services professional will escort program participants to appointments or join them on phone calls to provide direct support navigating the system. By teaching program participants how to avail themselves of the services and programs in their community, Vocational Support Services is able to help the program participant remedy many challenges to job performance. Information about community resources is also made available to the legal guardians of program participants, when appropriate.
Vocational Support Services will conduct an initial meeting and assessment within 30 days of a supported employee’s date of hire as well as annually thereafter. These meetings help identify potential barriers to employment and establish the foundation of a plan to overcome those barriers. Employees being supported by Vocational Support Services) will be more likely to leave Melwood on a voluntary basis in order to pursue other competitive integrated employment.
The role of the Vocational Support Specialist is instrumental in minimizing the number of “Involuntary” separations. There is an average of five involuntary separations monthly. It includes the Vocational Support Specialist intervening to lessen potential Corrective Action Plans (CAP). Although Melwood is known to service people with differing abilities, ensuring privacy and confidentiality is a priority practice. This means, only the Vocational Support Service team has access to the medical records of employees.
Vocational Support staff will meet with individuals in the community setting most appropriately dictated by the individual’s career development plan (e.g. employer businesses; Workforce Career Centers; local libraries; or other locations convenient, accessible, and within the individuals desired geographic employment area, and other places).
Interested in gaining or retaining employment through Melwood Vocational Supported Employment Program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.