Job help from the California Dept. of Rehabilitation: Part 4
In Part 3 of this series I shared what happened when the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) sent our son Nathan for a vocational assessment at a workshop: he found the situation too upsetting and quit before it was finished. The DOR then closed his case.
At this writing, our younger son Alan has also been a DOR client, with a different path and different outcome. Here is that story.
By age 20, Alan had completed training to be a mechanic at a trade school in another state, but decided that it was not the profession for him after all. He moved back to our town and agreed to see a psychiatrist specializing in ADHD. We all suspected ADHD might be contributing to Alan’s difficulties in life.
The psychiatrist did diagnose ADHD and began prescribing low-dose medication. When the doctor learned that Alan had only held part-time jobs lasting three months at the most, he gave him the phone number of the local DOR office. The doctor assured Alan that he would qualify for their services.
The first step to obtaining those services was to attend an orientation meeting. At our DOR office, the orientation is held every Monday at 8:30 a.m. Attendees don’t need to reserve a space, but do need to sign in by 8:15. Since anyone is welcome to come along, and since Alan sometimes doesn’t process everything that’s said, and since I wanted to make a blog post out of this experience, I went with him to the meeting.
A DOR counselor gave the hour-long presentation. He used a good mix of information, anecdotes, and humor to put everyone at ease about how DOR could help them.
Information packets and registration forms were passed out. The presenter explained that within a week, each applicant would be assigned to a counselor. A few weeks later, the applicants would receive a letter with the date and time of their first one-on-one meeting with their counselor.
For Alan, this played out as advertised. Unfortunately, when the letter came it showed that the appointment was three months away! The letter also said to bring documentation about his disability to the appointment.
In the meantime, Alan kept applying for jobs, and was accepted into a job support program run by the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) in our area. It turns out that ROP often coordinates its services with DOR; their staff was happy to learn that Alan would also be receiving assistance from the Dept. of Rehabilitation.
At last, the day came for Alan’s first meeting with Ms M, his DOR counselor. (Although it would have been permissible, I didn’t go with Alan to this or any other DOR appointments.)
Beforehand, I had wondered if Ms M would take time to assess whether Alan’s ADHD rendered him “disabled enough” to qualify for DOR services. After all, he had finished trade school, and his disabilities aren’t readily apparent. (See Part 2 in the series for a discussion of the “significance of disability” score.) There could have been a 90-day delay while she decided whether he qualified. But according to Alan, at this first meeting Ms M took the documentation, said “OK,” and forged ahead to the next bit of business. Phew!
Alan was also fortunate that he and Ms M were both on the same page about how to proceed. His ultimate goal was to work in law enforcement, and they agreed that becoming a security guard was a good first step toward that goal. A client with indistinct preferences would need to take vocational assessments before going forward.
At the end of the meeting, Ms M said she would create a draft Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).
At their next meeting three weeks later, Alan reviewed and signed his IPE. With that done, the counselor could proceed to arrange for Alan to take unarmed security guard training classes.
The next available classes were offered five weeks after the IPE was signed. All Alan had to do was show up and pass the classes – which he did. DOR paid the class fees and reimbursed Alan for his mileage to and from classes. They also covered the cost of a basic security guard utility belt for him.
Alan learned that unarmed security guards typically earn slightly above minimum wage, but armed security guards make at least a few dollars an hour more. For this reason, and to get experience handling firearms on the job, Alan wanted to take armed security guard training also. However, the Dept. of Rehabilitation won’t cover the costs of armed guard training. Instead, his parents agreed to pay for those classes (which he also passed).
If you are keeping track of the elapsed time in this saga, you’ll see that it took five months to get from the orientation meeting to the completion of the unarmed guard classes. And Alan still wasn’t at the finish line; now, he had to submit appropriate documentation to the state Bureau of Security and Investigation Services and then wait for them to issue his “guard card.” If memory serves, that took another 6-8 weeks each time (for the unarmed guard card and the armed guard card).
Alan met again with Ms M after completing the unarmed classes. At some point, she assigned him to someone who’s contracted by DOR to help clients find a specific job. From that point on, Alan primarily dealt with his job placement specialist, Ms A. Here’s how it would work: Ms A would inform Alan of places to apply. He would tell her where he had applied, and she would then follow up with the potential employer to smooth the way for him being hired on.
Shortly after Alan had received his unarmed guard card, Ms A emailed him about a hiring event at a security guard company. Alan went to the event – and was hired on the spot! No intervention from Ms A was necessary. He attended training the following day and started working at a job site shortly after that.
But this is how things go with Alan: although he did a good job, and was kept on while others hired at the same time were laid off, and was given a raise (yippee!), poor communication at the management level led to long intervals between his job postings – meaning long intervals with no paycheck (boo!). His supervisor wouldn’t return his calls. The supervisor also wouldn’t return calls from Ms A, who was trying to figure out what was going on. Alan grew frustrated and gave up on his employer.
The next installment of Alan’s journey to self-sufficiency is still unfolding. I’m not even sure he’s still a client of DOR: the rules say a consumer’s file is closed after three months of employment, but each of Alan’s two postings only lasted six weeks, and no one seems to know if Alan is still on the payroll of this company! (Gee, where did I get all these gray hairs?)
Alan says he has talked to Ms A and Ms M, and that they are willing to help him find work once more. The ROP program also might be able to assist. However, at this writing he’s pursuing another avenue to employment. It may turn out all right, but so far it hasn’t gotten off to the speedy start of which he was assured. Hmmm.
Although Alan’s employment story has not turned out well to date, he has no complaints about the assistance he received from DOR (and he isn’t one who holds back on complaining). The Department of Rehabilitation did everything they were supposed to do. The main down side to Alan’s experience with DOR was the length of time it took from beginning to end – and many cases take longer than his. Moral of the story: when signing on with the DOR, expect a significant wait before the paychecks start appearing.