Monday, March 6, 2017

Transition fairs are March 11 and 14! (Meanwhile, news about employment services has advocates nervous)


  • 10th Annual King County School-to-Work Transition Resource Fair; 9 am to 3:30 pm on March 11 at the Highline College Student Union Building, and March 14 at The Commons at Microsoft. Click here for details in multiple languages

  • A Senate bill would bring more person-centered flexibility, but some are concerned about consequences if we lose employment first
  • Changes at the Department of Vocational Resources could end partnership with counties for School-to-Work programs
Advocates for employment services have been engaged at the state level this past month.

There is a bill in the state Senate that would give individuals with developmental disabilities more flexibility to choose either community access or employment services through the Developmental  Disability  Administration  (DDA). It passed policy and fiscal committees in the Senate and needs a vote by the full chamber before moving over to the House. It is currently before the Rules Committee. Advocates are split on the issue, with some arguing people with I/DD with high acuity need options other than employment first, while others worry that moving away from employment first could mean these individuals are never exposed to employment at all.

Please see information about 2SSB 5201, in the Possible Legislation section, below.
In separate news, there is some uncertainty about the future of School-to-Work (S2W) services offered through a partnership with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), school districts and counties. In King County, this successful program is run by the  Developmental Disabilities Division and helps ensure students who qualify for the program leave school with a job. 

Last month, DVR said it would not renew contracts with the counties. That decision is on hold for now. Please see the  letter from the King County Developmental Disabilities Division, below, for a School-to-Work Update.


2SSB 5201
Concerning individuals receiving both employment and community access services.
Sponsors: O'Ban, Darneille, Zeiger

This bill has changed quite a bit from its initial introduction, when it called for minimum access to 20 hours of community participation each week for clients enrolled in either community access or employment services; allowing clients to participate in both employment and community access at the same time; and eliminated the requirement for nine months of employment services before a client could try community access. Initial testimony in support focused on clients with no or just a few work hours and who needed options for community interaction; testimony from those with concerns focused on the benefits of trying employment first.

This latest version, which needs to be voted on by the Senate this week:
  • Requires  the  state Developmental  Disability  Administration  (DDA)  to  give clients  aged  21  and  older  the  option  to  select  employment  services  or community  access  services  at  any  point  in  the employment  discovery process.
  • Gives  adult  DDA  clients  the  option  to  opt  in or  out  of  employment services, community access services, or both services at any time.
  • Requires DDA to offer services based on the client's individual, person-centered plan that are appropriate for the client's needs.
Trying employment first for nine months is no longer referenced in the bill, but for now at least it is a requirement of the state's federal contract. The Washington State Parent Coalitions have not taken a position on the bill and The Arc of Washington is neutral. Some advocates active in the King County Parent and Family Coalition have testified to the importance of employment.
  • You can read summaries of testimony pro and con in this bill summary.
  • To share your position and comments on the bill with your state senator or representatives, please click here. (Then click on the “Comment on this bill” button.)


The Arc of Washington set up an action alert when DVR first announced it would not renew School-to-Work contracts. That decision has since been put on hold, but The Arc of Washington still encourages people to weigh in and let the governor and his public policy advisor know how important this program is for people with significant developmental disabilities.

The following letter was sent to employment support contractors by the program manager of King County’s School-to-Work program. The county is committed to the program and funding for it will continue through at least next year. 

Dear King County S2W Contractors,

As many of you know, Counties, DVR and DDA continue to meet to clarify services, roles and processes to effectively serve students in S2W. While all parties remain committed to serving transition students, the system details regarding processes and services are still being discussed. King County’s first priority is to maintain services for any student who wants to work by guiding families, supporting providers and honoring long-term relationships with partners and stakeholders. The information below is intended to add some clarity in our guidance to students and families as we continue into “enrollment season” for the 2018 S2W cohort:

  • The Transition Fairs are moving forward as planned, including school and parent gatherings.  If you plan on being a King County S2W Provider, see you at the Fairs!   Please sign up if you haven’t.
  • At this time we are not requiring students and families to apply to DVR to be eligible for King County S2W.  We are confident this will be less confusing and less disruptive for all involved while we clarify roles and services in cooperation with DVR.  We will work with you and schools to make the necessary referrals to DVR as related S2W services and processes are confirmed.
  • As has always been the case, students and families may choose to go to DVR directly to access employment services.  It is important that it is clear that this is an option is available for any student seeking employment services in King County.
  • As you plan your budgets, please know that King County has committed to accessing reserves to maintain funding levels for S2W if needed through at least the 2018 cohort. 
We realize that this time of system transition may cause some confusion for stakeholders, students and families.  We will continue to communicate with you as we have new information, and encourage you to contact us with questions or concerns.  Your leadership and collaboration within in the S2W program is always highly valued by King County: it doesn’t work without you and your success in supporting students.  Through this time, with your continued collaboration and good work, I am confident we will emerge a stronger program built on a foundation of deeper partnerships.


As always, we encourage you to engage on the issues that matter to you and your loved ones.
- Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy, The Arc of King County