Lessons Learned:
Integrating Person-Centered Practices with Employment


Jolene Thibedeau Boyd, MS, CESP is Chief Service Officer at Community Involvement Programs in Minneapolis, MN. She can be reached at jolenet@cipmn.org

Betty DeWitt is Quality Analyst at Community Involvement Programs in Minneapolis, MN. She can be reached at bdewitt@cipmn.org

Meg Lee is Program​ Manager​ of Supported Employment Services at Community Involvement Programs . She can be reached at mlee@cipmn.org

Photograph of a woman working in a bakery.

Person-centered planning (PCP) has come front-and-center in recent years in policy. It can really impact lives of those who access home and community-based services. As with most changes, using PCP has varied across providers. This ranges from early adopters experiencing successes to those that have taken a wait-and-see approach.

To encourage service providers to use PCP, some state legislatures have added "person-centered planning" language into statutes. This effectively mandates PCP and the development of person-centered descriptions for people receiving licensed services. Employment consultant, a type of Direct Support Professional (DSP) that typically focus helping people to find and keep jobs, they are also responsible for completing reports as a part of the annual planning process. Now they must also complete additional PCP paper work as a part of the annual planning process. Reviewing person-centered plans is required at least semi-annually, as well.

At Community Involvement Programs (CIP) in Minneapolis, MN, this initially created challenges for employment consultants. Meg Lee, Program Manager of Supported Employment Services at CIP, shared that employment consultants often received negative comments when they tried to conduct person-centered interviews at annual support team meetings. People asked, "What does this have to do with employment?" More than once, people receiving services told employment consultants, "This is none of your business!" Actually, bringing PCP documents to the annual team meeting seemed too formulaic. It took up too much time. It didn’t get employment consultants the results they wanted. It seemed to put pressure on the people receiving services. They responded the way they thought they should, rather than being honest.

CIP’s Quality Analyst, Betty DeWitt emphasizes, "Person-centered planning is really about working collaboratively to support people." CIP staff realized they needed to do a better job of explaining why they were doing PCP. Many people simply didn’t understand WHY their employment staff were asking all these questions. Some had never been asked questions about their dreams by an employment consultant before. They did not understand how a job could help them achieve their dreams. Meg trained employment consultants to talk with people about the impact of work on other areas of the person’s life. For example, people who depend only on disability benefits have little extra income. This makes it hard to realize some of their dreams. But if a person tells her employment consultant that taking a trip to someplace warm during the winter is a dream, the employment consultant can explain how saving earned income from working creates opportunity to achieve this dream. The employment consultant can talk about planning and can work with the person to save extra money from her paycheck. The employment consultant can check in regularly to see how close the person is to achieving her dream.

CIP encourages employment consultants to complete the planning process with people one-on-one. This happens outside of a support team meeting. Employment consultants have found this leads to more accurate and meaningful responses from people.

CIP has also adopted the Personal Outcome Measures®. Personal Outcome Measures is an in-depth process for person-centered discussions that includes an in-depth conversation (or conversations) with the person receiving services about dreams, goals, and the support needed to reach them. With the person’s permission, discussions with a support person who knows the person best, and even family members, may also be part of the Personal Outcome Measures process. CIP was recently accredited by the Council of Quality and Leadership. "PCP and Personal Outcome Measures align nicely to look at the person as a whole," said DeWitt. They help a person discover what is truly important to them, not just what is important for them. People set meaningful goals for themselves and work toward them. This helps them live their greatest lives. Everyone who participates in the process has the opportunity to see a person in new and different ways. This includes direct support staff, managers, and family members. Following one Personal Outcome Measures interview, the mother of a young man who receives Supported Employment Services from CIP stated, "The insights were important in both directions. The conversations gave me new goals for my future times with [my son]."

Policy changes demand more individualized opportunities for people, and true person-centered practices also require more from service providers and DSPs. They require us to recognize—and sometimes educate others about—the impact that having a job can have on other areas of life. It sometimes requires us to be creative. We may need to think differently about learning about peoples’ dreams and developing a PCP. And it requires commitment to the belief that every individual has a right to live his or her greatest life.