Published On: September 30, 2021

Pathways to Opportunity is a new program of Easterseals Crossroads for adults who are seeking a long-term career opportunities. There is a tremendous need in our community for a program designed to assist individuals with disabilities leave poverty and move to an independent lifestyle based on successful, desired employment.

Our manager of the Pathways to Opportunity program Karen Causey and our director Marjorie Duryea answered a few questions about the program.

infographic of Pathways Program

What makes the Pathways to Opportunity Program unique or different from other employment programs?

The program is unique because Easterseals Crossroads will have the flexibility and resources to provide the specific services that each individual needs and desires, without the usual constraints that come with existing funding sources.  The program will allow us to serve those who are currently left out of other funding sources and programs. Easterseals has a commitment from several key businesses to provide opportunities for training, employment and a career path for participants within their companies.

“Easterseals Crossroads has successfully connected people with disabilities to gainful employment for decades, but we’ve recognized that if we are to move the needle  in moving people with disabilities out of poverty, we need to do more than help them find jobs. We need to address all the factors in their lives that have led to poverty disproportionately affecting people with disabilities.

Our Pathways to Opportunity approach will not only serve the whole person, but we will be engaging the whole household,” said David Dreith, President/CEO, Easterseals Crossroads

How were we able to create and offer this new program?

We responded to a request for proposals from the Lilly Endowment called Enhancing Opportunities.  Through this grant, the Endowment was seeking proposals from organizations to help individuals in Indianapolis overcome the challenges of poverty and financial insecurity.  Based on our experience and programs, we are acutely aware that disability is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, and for this reason determined that this grant was a perfect fit to our mission.

Additionally, while we already offer employment services for adults with disabilities, there are limitations in accessibility to services, what services can be provided and how they are provided due to specific funding streams.  We also know that there are a large group of individuals with disabilities in our community who need employment services and supports, but who are not being served due to the constraints of funding sources.  We saw the need and the opportunity to utilize our expertise and experience with disability and employment using a new and different approach.

What are the program goals and who will be served by this program?

The goal of Pathways to Opportunity is to assist individuals with disabilities as they move from poverty to self-sufficiency through education, training and employment.  This is a five-year project, and we plan on serving 150 individuals.  The program will serve individuals with disabilities who are experiencing financial instability or living in poverty and reside in Marion county.

In addition to these criteria, the ideal candidates will be those who are seeking full-time employment, who are willing and able to eliminate dependency on public benefits and who are willing to commit to long-term participation in the Pathways program.  Services provided will include

  • case management
  • job skills training
  • financial literacy and coaching
  • academic tutoring
  • building social capital
  • job search, job placement and job supports

We will be able to help fund training and educational pursuits and address key barriers that may affect success. Each participant will be assigned to work with a career navigator who will provide individualized, high-touch, comprehensive support to help achieve special career and life goals.  We officially started program planning and implementation in July 2021.  We have hired our program manager and some of the staff and hope to begin enrolling participants by the end of 2021.

How do people sign up for the program? Once a person is identified as a qualified participant, what happens next? 

We anticipate referrals coming from some of our own existing programs, as well as our network of Pathways partners. Each person referred will be interviewed to determine eligibility and program compatibility.  Once that has been established, the participant will be assigned to a career navigator who will facilitate a comprehensive needs assessment and assist in developing a personalized employment plan.

How do we plan to engage other agencies within our community to deliver services? 

Pathways will engage other agencies in our community by developing mutually beneficial partnerships through shared resources and referrals.

What does a qualified candidate look like in terms of success? 

Success will be defined by each individual meeting a specific goal identified in the personal employment and life plan.  This will include securing and maintaining a job that will put the participant on a path to self-sufficiency. A good job will be those paying $18 or more per hour with benefits including health coverage. A promising job is defined as one that puts a person on a path to a good job.

What is success for this program?  

Success will measured in part through the metrics listed below.  Success will also be measured by our ability to sustain the Pathways program beyond the five-year grant period by proving that the model is both effective and relevant in our community to reduce poverty for people with disabilities.  Another long-term success will be achieved when an individual is able to break the cycle of generational poverty within the family.

  • 90% of those served will become employed
  • 30% will achieve jobs paying $18 per hour
  • 90% will realize household income growth from start to end of program
  • 80% will maintain employment 90 days
  • 75% will maintain employment 6 months
  • 90% will complete work readiness training
  • 90% will complete financial literacy training
  • 30% will complete formal certification training in a specific occupation
  • 75% will participate in the Circles program to build their social capital with a high level of satisfaction, and to meet these goals

Contact us for more information about the Pathways to Opportunity program.