Boone County Family Resources addresses hope for disability employment

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COLUMBIA — October marks National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the Boone County Family Resources is looking forward to developing an existing services that help more people with developmental disabilities. 

The pre-employment services are part of services inside the Partnership for Hope program that Gov. Jay Nixon launched and continues to expand. The service provides skills training to help prepare people for employment. 

Director of Life & Work Connections Mark Satterwhite said the pre-employment training makes it more likely that someone will find a job. The service addresses some "soft skills" for employment, including helping people practice interviewing, developing resumes and working on their communication skills. 

"That really improves their prospect for employment in the community, which is the ultimate goal of this service," Satterwhite said. 

Satterwhite said the service targets people ages 16 to 25 because people in that category really benefit from pre-employment services.

BCFR is one partner among many local organizations that is invested in promoting the employment of people with disabilities. 

"In improving our relationships with businesses in the community and helping raise awareness and educate about the benefits of employing people with disabilities, it diversifies the workforce, it's a myth that people with disabilities are incapable of productive work," Satterwhite said.

Holly Einsiedel, the life skill trainer for the pre-employment service, said the training session usually lasts two hours and BCFR provides every client with an opportunity to work and gets paid $7.65 per hour.

"They get a sense of accomplishment, self worth and independence because we all work and you know, their hopes and dreams are no different than anyone else's hopes and dreams," Einsiedel said. "They want that independent life just like everybody else does."

However, not everyone living with a disability is willing to take this service.

According to a statistic from the Coalition of Human Needs, people with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty than the general population, and they have the lowest employment rate of any minority in the United States.

Satterwhite said many people with disabilities fear losing benefits if they make too much money.

"With an ongoing concern for many adults with disability is that they live in poverty and some are reluctant to go to work because they depend on their Medicaid to pay for support services," Satterwhite said, adding that there is a need for public policy to help people to go to work without losing those critical life supports.

Robyn Kaufman, the executive director of BCFR, said the organization has received a lot of good feedback from classes of pre-employment training.

"I think that's a pretty innovative way of providing services and in a group-setting, we found some of these young adults that are looking for a job, they really enjoy getting together with their peers and learning some of those skills that it takes to get a job," Kaufman said.