A mentoring volunteer program for Orthodox Jewish adults with disabilities
Katz, Robin Fran
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Prevocational and vocational training are interventions that are widely recognized as personally satisfying forms of occupation that can increase self-determination and employability while improving a person's health and well-being. In recent years a related intervention, structured peer mentoring, has been associated with increased community integration, greater residential independence and improved life satisfaction for social services consumers with a range of physical and psychiatric disabilities. Based on these favorable outcomes, peer mentoring is a potentially effective prevocational approach that is worth investigating for the benefit of consumers with a range of disabilities. In 2011, a prevocational Mentoring Volunteer Program was designed by an occupational therapist at the request of the agency Yad HaChazakah - The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center (JDEC) in New York City. The proposed program utilizes structured peer mentoring as its core intervention. It aims to serve the agency's religious Jewish consumers with physical and/or psychiatric disabilities who are interested in pursuing suitable competitive employment as a long-term goal. The Mentoring Volunteer Program is designed to 1) prepare peer mentoring participants using culturally-sensitive training based on principles of Bandura's Social Learning Theory; 2) offer ongoing supervision of weekly peer mentoring for one nine-month cycle each year; 3) offer mentees optional volunteer assignments in the Jewish community while being mentored; 4) utilize mentor, mentee and coordinator feedback at various points in the cycle to implement program improvements; and 5) provide a model for replication with a variety of populations; these would include traumatic brain injury survivors working towards community re-entry, and also special education high school students planning their transition to community living as adults.
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