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Tools for Independence WORKS: Getting Adults with Developmental Disabilities into the Work-Force

March 7, 2012

More than 80 percent of American adults with disabilities are unemployed, and still more are underemployed as they work only a few hours weekly. In a tough economy, the challenge to secure employment is further intensified. Just like any other unemployed American, those with disabilities need the business connections and a network of support to make their dream of independence and financial security a reality. They need a foot in the door with a chance to prove themselves as hard and capable workers.

Most Americans don’t want a hand-out – they want a chance… the chance to prove to themselves and to the world that they can work and perform a job well done. 

So, what’s being done in our community, and how can you get involved?

The Developmental Disabilities – Tools for Independence (TFI) division of Jewish Family & Career Services, a nonprofit organization, is on the front lines of the battle to win independence for adults with developmental disabilities. TFI WORKS offers multiple programs that build independence for our clients while also building business solutions for the community. TFI WORKS takes an integrated support approach that maximizes each individual’s strengths and plays to those strengths by matching work opportunities with willing and capable employees – employees who are happy to have a chance to work. In a client’s words, “I just want to work. I like to keep busy. That makes me happy.”

TFI’s hallmark program, TeamWORKS, promotes skill-building at the pre-vocational level while a counterpart program, LifeWORKS, focuses on daily life skills in a day habilitation environment. Both programs feature community involvement, with clients serving local businesses and organizations while also developing marketable skills that will continue to foster their independence.

The program would not be successful without community partners, which include:

  • FurKids – clients support this no-kill cat shelter by helping maintain a clean environment and providing love and care to its 250-plus feline residents;
  • ZooAtlanta – clients love supporting the programs and projects at ZooAtlanta, and work to make memories for Atlanta’s children;
  • Atlanta Union Mission – serving another non-profit organization is a quid pro quo for clients, who take pride in maintaining a clean and orderly work environment;
  • FODAC (Friends of Disabled Adults and Children) – clients earn practical experience organizing clothing for the  thrift store in this large nonprofit setting;
  • The Epstein School – clients take particular pride in serving nutritious lunch meals to the students.

Paid Work:

  • Radio Station WYZE – clients clean the radio station while earning a wage.
  • Atlanta Track Club – clients prepare the bags that runners receive at a number of area races, including the Peachtree Road Race, while earning a wage.
  • Therapy Works – clients clean therapy offices demonstrating to the company’s patrons that there are work opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.

Here’s how you can help TeamWORKS and support Individuals with developmental disabilities.

You are one phone call away from making a difference. TeamWORKS is in need of additional community partners.  They have recently opened up a service team that is willing and able to perform on-site cleaning of businesses and homes.  From cleaning kitchens and vacuuming to making your laundry tidy, TeamWORKS is pleased to offers competitive rates to area residents and businesses. TeamWORKS is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you need a reliable and trustworthy team, contact Rachel Miller today at 770.677.9450 or If you already have a cleaning contract, Rachel can discuss other training opportunities. Please contact her today to offer your support!

This article was written by Rachel Miller, Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta Vocational Coordinator, and Anna Maki, JF&CS Intern.



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