IPS Works for Kara

Kara holds an apple at the salad bar.

Kara says she loves everything about her job working at Hickman High School.

Since October 2016, the agency has been piloting an Individual Placement and Support (IPS) supported employment model for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, in partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). The model is an evidence-based best practice in supported employment for people with severe mental illness — and its principles are also working for people we serve.

Referred to us by VR, Kara quickly found a job working in the kitchen and cafeteria at Hickman High School.  “I love everything about my new job,” she says. “I have a good manager, Jackie. I clean tables and dishes. I help with the food sometimes. I help serve the students sometimes.”

Community Employment Specialist, Rachel Murphy, says helping Kara find work was a team effort. “Everything came together. Kara’s Support Coordinator let us know Columbia Public Schools was hiring — and the job opening was consistent with Kara’s career goal.  She was hired less than a month after beginning her job search.”

Kara was supported in finding and landing the job, and is supported in keeping the job. “They told me about the job and I wanted it,” Kara says. “Kim [former Community Employment Specialist] helped me apply online.” Rachel accompanied her through her orientation at work. Community Skills Specialist Sarah Branch helped her shop for clothes and shoes needed for the job — Vocational Rehabilitation purchased them. “Sarah also helps with my check stubs and making sure I report to Social Security,” she says.

Kara’s support team includes her VR Counselor, Jayne Young; her Support Coordinator, Holly Estrem; her Community Employment Specialist, Rachel; her Community Skills Specialist, Sarah, and the IPS Supervisor, Renee Carter, who is also a benefits planner and will help Kara understand how working affects her public benefits.

Kara’s journey reflects the principles of IPS:

  • anyone who wants to work, gets a shot
  • job search starts immediately
  • support is team-driven
  • job is based on personal choice
  • competitive work is the goal
  • benefits planning is arranged or provided
  • job supports are ongoing for as long as they are needed

We hope Kara’s experience is fulfilling, and leads to future opportunity as her aspirations evolve.