Path to Independence Mentoring Program for Young Adults with Disabilities: Evaluation Study

In Israel, as in other countries, there is growing recognition of the need for specialized services for young adults with disabilities to prepare them for the transition to independent adult life and help them overcome the challenges of employment, studies, independent housing and, social relationships. The Path to Independence mentoring program is an innovative, one-on-one transition program for young adults with disabilities age 21-35 who are not involved in studies, employment or social activities. The program goal is to help the participants set and achieve personal goals for a better, more meaningful and independent life. Each participant is assigned a mentor who helps them to define goals and work towards achieving them, according to the principles of person-centered services. The program usually lasts between 3 and 10 months according to the time the participant needs to enter employment, studies or any other meaningful activity. The program was initiated by JDC-Israel Unlimited, a partnership of the Government of Israel, JDC-Israel and the Ruderman Family Foundation. It has been implemented as a pilot by the Kivunim nonprofit organization in the north of Israel since June 2012. As of March 2016, 60 young people had participated in the program. The evaluation examined the implementation and outcomes of the program to provide the basis on which to make decisions regarding its expansion and dissemination. The study included interviews with participants, the mentoring staff, representatives of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services, and JDC-Israel Unlimited.

Among the findings:

  • During the pilot, the program was in considerable demand; there was even a waiting list of candidates.
  • The participants were highly satisfied with the support and guidance they received from the mentors.
  • At the time of data collection, the program had helped 21 of the 29 participants about whom the staff had provided data to succeed in at least one of the following areas: finding employment, beginning studies, moving out of their parents’ home to independent housing, joining a program for young adults or realizing their rehabilitation entitlements.
  • The staff reported additional contributions to the participants: Increased willingness to accept their disabilities, improved self-image, and taking initiative instead of being passive.

The findings have been presented to the initiators of the program and discussed with them. The discussion focused on issues regarding implementation of the program that were identified in the evaluation, such as the need to adapt the program in order to extend it to additional populations such as Arabs and Haredi Jews, the need to enhance the service with regard to employment, and the need to  remain in contact with the participants after they have completed the program. Following the presentation of the findings and subsequent discussion, it was decided to continue the program and extend it to additional regions and populations in Israel.

Citing suggestion: Eyal, Y., Barlev, L., & Rivkin, D. (2016). Path to Independence Mentoring Program for Young Adults with Disabilities: Evaluation Study. RR-725-16. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)