The Family Employment Awareness Training (FEAT) was designed to help families and their family members with significant support needs develop high expectations for and gain knowledge about competitive employment. FEAT was created and implemented in 2010 and 2011 through a partnership between the Beach Center on Disability at the University of Kansas, Kansas Division on Health Care Finance (Kansas’ state Medicaid agency), and Families Together, Inc. (Kansas’ Parent Training and Information Center). Trainings were held across Kansas (i.e., Overland Park, Lawrence, Topeka, Wichita, Hays, Garden City).
FEAT sought to increase competitive employment expectations for individuals with significant support needs by sharing successful competitive employment examples from Kansas and across the country along with information on state and federal employment resources. The FEAT curriculum addressed myriad topics, including: employment options (e.g., carved, created, business within a business, self-employment, resource ownership), research on competitive employment, family role in supporting employment, transition in education and healthcare, support resources for employees and employers, antidiscrimination laws and self-advocacy, funding and employment resources, including services, benefits, and programs available federally and in Kansas. FEAT participants were provided numerous supplemental curricular materials on these topics as well as follow-up technical assistance through the Beach Center or Families Together.
We iteratively designed FEAT using design-based research methods, administering pre- and post-training surveys to gain information regarding participant expectations for employment and knowledge of transition to employment. We also obtained feedback regarding content and format and used it to guide changes to the FEAT curriculum and training model. Based on participant and trainer feedback, the training model evolved into a two-day workshop consisting of lecture, small group activities, networking with area representatives from employment information and service organizations, and presentations from local community employees, employers, and entrepreneurs. Following training, families were provided technical assistance to complete their action plans identifying their next steps to employment.