Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Factors Influencing State-Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Consumers

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Factors Influencing State-Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Consumers

Article excerpt

Traditional state funded rehabilitation programs are in a time of transition (McClanahan & Sligar, 2015). Recent hiring standards amended in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA; Innovation, 2014) and projections of an increased demand for counseling personnel (Sonpal-Valias, 2006) signify a need for cautious monitoring of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) outcomes as changes are implemented. The purpose of WIOA is to assist consumers with significant barriers to employment in entering the workforce, retaining employment, or learning new skills to gain employment (https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/). Several studies have identified counseling practices (Leahy, Muenzen, Saunders & Strauser, 2009; Fleming, Del Valle, Kim & Leahy, 2013; Wheaton & Berven, 1994), job functions (Leahy, Chan & Saunders, 2003), training needs (Froehlich & Linkowski, 2002; Szymanski & Danek, 1992; Van Houtte, 2011) and service predictors for successful outcomes (McAweeny, Keferl, Moore & Wagner, 2008). However, there is limited research to be found comparing the 80 state/territorial VR agency policies and practices with consumer outcomes. Autonomy given to the state VR agencies allows for differences in the implementation of RSA policy. This creates variation in policy and practices that may influence outcomes by state (Hager, 2004).

Factors Influencing Successful Outcomes

The process of providing services in state-federal vocational rehabilitation programs to consumers involves a wide range of environmental, political, and personal factors. Determining the relationship between specific aspects of service delivery and outcome data can be difficult due to these multiple factors (Saunders, Leahy, McGlynn, & Estrada-Hernandez, 2006). Some examples of these factors are the rehabilitation counselor-consumer relationship, the number of consumers on a rehabilitation counselor's caseload, number of consumers served, and number of consumers served with a severe disability. Past studies (Szymanski, 1989) have focused on the level of education (bachelor's or master's degree) and degree type (rehabilitation and related or other) attained by the rehabilitation counselor and its impact on consumer outcomes. Additionally, the impact of educational level on outcomes for consumers with severe disabilities has been analyzed (Frain, Ferrin, Rosenthal & Wampold, 2006). Serving consumers with severe disabilities is often formally established in state agencies through the implementation of an Order of Selection (Hager, 2004). Therefore, having an Order of Selection implemented likely increases the number of consumers with severe disabilities being served.

Rehabilitation Counselor Education Level

Szymanski and Parker (1989a) and Szymanksi and Danek (1992) conducted a series of studies that demonstrated that rehabilitation counselors with a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling or a related field (such as counseling) were more cost efficient in overall service delivery than their colleagues with unrelated master's or bachelor's degrees. More recent studies have argued that these findings may not have a large enough effect size for these results to be considered statistically valid (Frain et al, 2006). Frain et al. (2006) contends that there is no strong empirical evidence to date supporting the efficacy of master's level rehabilitation counselors over bachelor's level. These conclusions were drawn from a review of past studies with difficulties in their statistical analysis. However, the rehabilitation field is still lacking an accessible and established protocol for measuring outcome data based on level of education and other factors. Despite an extensive literature review, more recent studies into the relationship between rehabilitation counselor education level and positive consumer employment outcomes were not found. This may be due in part to the ambiguity of measuring such outcomes. …

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