The objective of this research was to better understand the programmatic needs of a newly defined Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) population being served through the Family Stabilization Services (FSS) program, those with diagnosed disabilities impeding their ability to work. In partnership with Project for Pride in Living (PPL) research was conducted to provide current data and findings that will enhance understanding of the root causes of destabilizing issues facing these families and the resulting challenges. With a better understanding of individual barriers along with personal goals, the FSS program can be tailored to provide appropriate resources and set realistic objectives. One-on-one research interviews were conducted with thirty FSS participants as they became oriented with the new program. They were asked a range of questions to better understand their challenges, goals, and recommendations in terms of program services. Findings were consistent with national research in terms of the prevalence of disabilities, the negative relationship between mental health disabilities and employment, the detriment of multiple barriers, and the correlation between the long-term Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) population and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility. Interviewees were diagnosed with a range of disabilities, most of which involved mental health conditions. The average interviewee faced three to four barriers to employment, the most common being poor health. Both the severity and sheer number of barriers make traditional work requirements unattainable. Rather, participants articulated the importance of step-by-step programming focused on meeting their most basic needs first. In order to better meet the needs of this population, the FSS program's flexible design is critical; allowing for flexible and realistic work expectations, the ability to formerly address barriers as a countable activities towards participation, and to regularly assess and reassess participants for their readiness to work. In addition, interviewees stressed the importance of a positive atmosphere where counselors are on their level, allowing participants to feel comfortable and free of judgment. Interviewees also appreciated the FSS program's opportunities to come together with other participants in order to support one another and be less isolated. Finally, the majority would like to see more resources for improved parenting and for their children in general. Overall, participants felt that the program was already meeting their needs and rated it favorably. This new model is clearly a powerful new resource for people who more than anything need individual support from professionals attentive to their health and personal goals.
Prepared in partnership with Project for Pride in Living. Funded by a Communiversity Personnel Grant from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), University of Minnesota.
Family Stabilization Research for Informed Program Implementation and Public Policy Evaluation.
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