Promoting the Successful Transitions of Youth with Disabilities to Adulthood: Lessons from PROMISE
Social Security Administration
From our synthesis, we identified lessons within the following four domains:
- Confirming what we know. Analyses of the PROMISE programs reinforced our understanding of youth transition programs in two ways. First, most youth receiving SSI had access to a range of transition-related services even in the absence of PROMISE. Second, implementing complex programs such as PROMISE is challenging.
- New information about services. The PROMISE demonstration provided new information for the field in three areas: (1) family service use, a novel component of PROMISE, was associated with youth service use, but had minimal impacts on parents’ outcomes; (2) PROMISE programs used a variety of means to address difficulties in engaging youth and families in services; and (3) service use and impacts were no different for younger and older participants.
- New information about outcomes and program cost. PROMISE had positive 18-month impacts across multiple domains, reflecting consistency with its model. However, at five years after enrollment, two programs had youth employment impacts, and none of the programs had impacts on most other outcomes (though additional analyses conducted for the national evaluation detected evidence for some combinations of participants, programs, and outcomes). The limited program impacts after five years (when youth were ages 19 to 21) suggest that large investments in youth may be difficult to offset with immediate benefits.
- Future directions to fill knowledge gaps. The PROMISE findings point to four areas where we lack information about practices related to the transition of youth with disabilities from school to young adulthood: (1) consider longer access to and continuity of services; (2) identify which youth and families could benefit most from a program such as PROMISE or may need additional supports for success; (3) address the limitations of the evidence on what works for youth with disabilities to successfully transition to adulthood; and (4) increase youth and families’ knowledge about SSA policies and work incentives.
PROMISE—Promoting Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—was a demonstration that generated significant evidence on transition practices and addressed many of the limitations found in the transition literature. The demonstration sought to improve the outcomes of youth receiving SSI and their families—outcomes related to employment, education, income and earnings, and participation in public assistance programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other agencies.
The implementation and evaluation of the six PROMISE programs generated extensive knowledge about offering services to youth receiving SSI. In this report, we synthesize this research to identify its key lessons for the field regarding practices in the transition to young adulthood for youth with disabilities. We reviewed all of the articles and reports published to date related to PROMISE: 17 journal articles or reports from the PROMISE national evaluation and 33 journal articles or reports from the program-specific evaluations. This literature represents the sum of what has been learned from PROMISE to date.