Transition Services for Youth who are Disabled or Aging Out of Foster Care


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and highlights the contributions, diversity and the impact people with disabilities make in the workforce. The Tennessee Department of Human Services and partner organizations are helping students prepare for life after high school, including making plans for post-secondary education and mapping out their career goals. Research shows that the earlier students with a disability get employment training and paid job experiences, the better their chances are for steady work and independence after high school.

In Tennessee, Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) are available to any students ages 14-22 with a disability. These services make sure students get job skills training and/or internships at an early age.

Pre-ETS is supported by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that was signed into law July 22, 2014. The program works to make sure students receive training and develop skills to reach their education, career and life goals.

A student with a disability can be a student in a traditional education setting, a student being homeschooled, or a student in a non-traditional secondary education setting.

In addition, students who are pursuing education after high school can receive Pre-Employment Transition Services. However, tuition is not included as a Pre-Employment Transition Service.

Services for a Successful Transition

The State of Tennessee works with several partners across the state to provide five services that help students make a successful transition to job opportunities:

1. Job Exploration. Explore the world of work and career choices.

2. Work-Based Learning. Get paid or non-paid work experiences that may be in school and/or after school.

3. Workplace Readiness. Prepare the student for the workplace.

4. Self-Advocacy. Help the student learn more about themselves and the disability. Also help the student learn how to interact with the world.

5. Post-Secondary Counseling and Enrollment Assistance. Explore options for students seeking careers that require education after high school.

Learn More about Pre-ETS

Here are some more key points about Pre-Employment Transition Services for students and their parents or caregivers:

• Parents, guardians, and adult students must provide permission for the student to participate. They must provide proof of disability which can include the cover sheet from their IEP or 504 Plan.

• There services are provided at no cost to the student or their family.

• Most services are provided by Local Education Agencies (LEAs) local organizations that hold agreements with the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

• Participating in Pre-ETS does not automatically qualify an individual for Vocational Rehabilitation services. If your child is nearing the end of their high school career, you are encouraged to contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. The counselor can determine if the student is eligible and what services may be available to help them pursue a job.

• A student may receive any one or combination of Pre-Employment Transition Services to meet their education needs and/or supporting the goal of finding work.

Transitioning out of Foster Care

The transition from childhood to adulthood is a challenge in itself. For children and youth in foster care, the transition can be even harder if they don’t have stable connections, family and friends to help support them through the process. In many cases youth who age out of foster care are truly on their own. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services partners with resource centers across the state who work for youth who age out of foster care.  

·         Memphis: South Memphis Alliance works specifically with youth in foster care and families in need. They are a community collaborative partner that recruits foster families and trains community representatives. Youth enrolled in the Dream Seekers program receive assistance with permanence, education, employment, housing, physical and mental health, goal setting, anger management, parenting classes and prenatal care, substance abuse prevention/counseling, financial education and HIV/AIDS testing/counseling. Contact: Tiffany Turnage, Program Director, South Memphis Alliance, 1048 S. Bellevue Blvd. Memphis, TN 38106, 901.774.9582

·         Nashville: Youth Connections, Monroe Harding Resource Center is a resource center for young people ages 16-25 who are currently in, or have aged-out, of the foster care system. The center connects youth to their community and offers a support system as to adulthood. YC participants are referred by community partners that serve youth aging out of foster care. Contact: Pamela Madison, Program Director, Youth Connections, Monroe Harding Resource Center, McKendree United Methodist Church 3rd floor, 523 Church St. Nashville, TN 37219, 615.226.3614

·         Chattanooga: River City Youth Collective serves youth who are aging out of foster care by offering assistance with financial readiness, life/social skills and health education. Contact: Sarah Elghalban, Program Director for Youth Services, River City Youth Collective, 1800 McCallie Ave. Chattanooga, TN 37404, 423.646.6444

·         Knoxville: The McNabb Center uses the evidence-based Jim Casey Model to help youth ages 14 to 24 who have been in foster care to develop financial skills. During the program, youth open IDA savings accounts, which are matched dollar-for dollar-up to $1,000 for each year the youth participants in the program. Program participants develop written plan for approved assets such as computers, vehicles and housing, medical or educational expenses. Contact: Christy Martin, Project NOW! Program Coordinator, Project NOW! 3006 Lake Brook Blvd. Building 2 Knoxville, TN 37909, 865-544-5000 Ext. 2667

Additional Resources

Learn about the Community Targeted Transitional Support Services Program, which serves adults with certain mental disorders who also meet the most recent federal poverty guidelines, here

A TennCare program called Employment and Community First CHOICES helps people with an intellectual or developmental disability achieve their own goals for employment and independent living. Learn more by clicking here

Learn about the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program here

The Department of Children’s Services extends foster care services for eligible youth that age out of foster care at 18 up to 21. Extension of Foster Care Services, give youth the ability to prepare for their future by receiving additional educational opportunities, employment opportunities and consistent and safe housing.

Youth Villages: The YVLifeSet program gives young adults the support and guidance needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. It caters to at risk youth and young adults leaving foster care, juvenile justice and mental health systems. Young adults typically participate in the program for 6-12 months, based on their needs.