Finding a rewarding job is not an easy task for physically and mentally disabled individuals. But it is becoming a bit easier for the residents of Rainbow Acres thanks to our growing utilization of Vocational Rehabilitation services available through government sources.

Vocational Rehabilitation – also known as “Voc Rehab” or “VR” – is a service offered by the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Arizona Rehabilitation Services division of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. These interrelated government agencies are mandated to help the disabled find work. VR counselors and job coaches are available to work one-to one with clients, helping them with every aspect of the vocational process including mock interviews, resume preparation, job search techniques, submitting applications and training upon hire.

For years, Rainbow Acres’ Vocational Services has been providing the same services internally, and the vast majority of our off-ranch job placements have been made without government help. But for the sake of providing the greatest range of options and services to our Ranchers, we are increasingly partnering with VR services for the Ranchers’ benefit in finding jobs. Our Computer Lab Educator, Lu Anne Behrle, is a former VR counselor and has been helpful in building the Rainbow-VR partnership.

Recent Vocational Rehabilitation Outcomes

Over the past year, several of our Ranchers have received services from Voc Rehab. As is the case generally, there have been a variety of outcomes this time around:

  • In one case, a Rancher who came to Rainbow Acres in 2013 from Mesa, AZ, accepted a job as a childcare assistant and as of this writing is adjusting well to her new position. This has been our most successful case this year based on actual job placement.
  • In another case, a Rancher who hails from San Luis Obispo, CA, and has been here since 2011, stated he wanted a community job but, when an offer was made, he realized he did not want to give up any of the other commitments he had, which included two jobs on the ranch and a number of recreational activities. In this case, even though the objective of community employment was not reached, the Rancher experienced the opportunity of a maturation process through evaluating his priorities and determining for himself what was most important for him.
  • Another Rancher currently in the VR process initially stated a willingness to explore a number of job possibilities in order to maximize his chances of employment. More recently, he has narrowed his view to only include highly unrealistic job possibilities. It may be that this Rancher is not ready for a job after all or it may be that he will become open to more realistic possibilities. Either way, having the assistance of Vocational Rehabilitation professionals to help him make this determination is of great service.

Vocational Training for Adults with Disabilities

Governmental VR services are tax-funded and thus can provide services at no additional cost to Rainbow Acres, our Ranchers or Rancher families. Voc Rehab job coaches work one-on-one with Ranchers at jobsites for extended periods of time, allowing Ranchers the maximum opportunity for success. And VR can offer financial incentives to businesses that employ the disabled, thus increasing the chances of new hires.

Interested Ranchers take part in an intake interview to assess if VR services are appropriate for them. If accepted, the Rancher is assigned a job coach who coordinates with the Rainbow Acres Vocational Department to develop an “Individualized Plan for Employment” which includes a list of objectives. Each objective details the responsibilities of VR to provide services as well as the responsibilities of the client to participate in the process to the greatest degree possible.

Support for Voc Rehab Success

As a practical matter, the Rainbow Acres Vocational Department also commits to responsibilities such as providing transportation and assuming ongoing coordination once a placement is made and the Rancher is released from VR services. The outcome of each Rancher’s plan depends in part on the participation and cooperation of the Rancher. In some cases, a job will be achieved and sometimes not. But even when a position is not realized, the process can still be useful in helping a Rancher become educated about what goes into securing a community job and whether a job is truly a priority for them.

Ranchers are not always sure if community employment is something that is truly a priority for them. And sometimes they don’t have an understanding of what is involved in seeking and attaining employment. But for those who wish to explore the world of employment and the possibility of a job, Vocational Rehabilitation is a great resource that Rainbow Acres now draws upon. We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen our partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation for the sake of our present and future Ranchers.

By Andy Rogers, Vocational Educator