Current & Recent Projects

Work Opportunities for Rewarding Careers (WORC)

The Workplace Center developed WORC, an evidence-informed career readiness program to promote employment and economic well-being for marginalized individuals. We have provided training and technical assistance to help staff implement WORC at numerous agencies nationally that serve individuals with mental health conditions. We are also evaluating the impact of WORC on staff capacity and individual vocational, education and well-being outcomes.

Young Adult Work Opportunities for Rewarding Careers (YA WORC)

The Workplace Center has adapted WORC specifically for young people in foster care, alumni of foster care, court-involved, or with serious persistent mental health conditions. YA WORC is an evidence-informed, developmentally appropriate career readiness program for young people ages 14–24. From a strengths perspective, its focus is on connecting young people to meaningful careers and preparing them for economic self-sufficiency by helping them identify a career goal, plan a career path, and gain the skills and knowledge to move along the path. With funding by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services, the New York State Office of Children and Families, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, New Yorkers for Children, and the Kenworthy-Swift Foundation, current and recent YA WORC projects include:

  • YA WORC for Youth in Foster Care: The Workplace Center, in partnership with Division of Family Permanency Services of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, NY State Office of Family and Children’s Services, and the Professional Development Program, SUNY Albany, is providing training and technical assistance to foster care agencies in New York City and across New York State to implement YA WORC in residential and community-based programs, and evaluate its impact.  
  • YA WORC for Youth with Juvenile Justice Involvement: The Workplace Center, in partnership with the NYC Division of Youth and Family Justice of the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, has initiated a comprehensive effort to bring career readiness preparation into the juvenile justice system. The effort includes building the capacity of detention staff, and non-secure placement and aftercare providers to offer YA WORC services to young people in their care with a special focus on older adolescents entering the system as a consequence of Raise the Age.
  • YA WORC in the Schools: The Workplace Center has adapted YA WORC to be delivered in schools in partnership with the NYS Department of Education, NYC Department of Education, District 79 and Passages Academy. Teachers, teachers’ aides and guidance counselors are being trained and provided technical assistance in schools attended by court-involved young people or young people in foster care. In New York, young people earn a credit for participation that can be applied toward a New York State Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Certificate. The YA WORC career readiness curriculum has also been integrated with Google’s Applied Digital Skills lessons.
  • YA WORC for Young Adults with Serious Persistent Mental Health Conditions:  The Workplace Center has partnered with the NYS Office of Mental Health to build the capacity of New York New York III Supportive Housing staff to support the career preparation of their younger residents. The Workplace Center has also helped the staff of NYC Adolescent Skills Centers of NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene offer career development and employment support to young adults through YA WORC, and evaluated the program’s impact. 
  • YA WORC Practice Standards:  Based on current evidence and the implementation experience, the Workplace Center has developed practice standards for the implementation of a comprehensive evidence informed, developmentally appropriate career readiness program


Alternative credentialing system for young people in the juvenile justice system

The Workplace Center received funding from the Kenworthy-Swift Foundation to apply an innovative credentialing process to YA WORC helping connect young people in the juvenile justice system to meaningful careers. Through the credentialing process, young people earn badges that serve as concrete documentation of their knowledge and skills, and can be readily recognized by employers. The Workplace Center is developing digital badges for the soft skills expected of entry-level employees and piloting a process for earning the badge through YA WORC Career Club.

Supporting the Role of Birth/Foster Parents

Caregivers play a vital role in the career development of their children but they often lack an understanding of their influence or do not know how to offer support.  With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Workplace Center has developed a curriculum for caregivers that provides an understanding of the importance of their role in the career development of their children, reviews the implications of juvenile justice involvement on career development, and suggests simple things caregivers can do to support their children’s career aspirations. The Workplace Center has trained staff in six non-secure placement sites and in the Division of Youth and Family Justice/NYC Administration for Children’s Services on how to deliver the curriculum and is evaluating the impact on caregiver attitudes and behavior.

Works Wonders

The Workplace Center, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, and Rhode Island College School of Social Work, joined providers and other researchers in Rhode Island as part of an ACF/HSS funded project to develop services that build relational competencies, self-efficacy and empowerment among young people transitioning out of foster care to the adult world of work and evaluate the impact of the services on educational and vocational outcomes. This project has been selected as one of seven finalists for the 2018 Innovations in American Government Award from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Strategies to Promote the Transition to Work for Youth from Foster Care Los Angeles World of Work Curriculum

The Workplace Center, in partnership with the LA TAY Collaborative, developed and assessed the effectiveness of a curriculum developed to prepare young people transitioning from foster care to the world of work and supported foster care agencies throughout LA County in its implementation.  Currently, the curriculum is being offered in over 40 programs in LA County.

Career Development and Employment Support for Youth Served by the Child Welfare System

Funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this project partnered with three child welfare jurisdictions (Baltimore, New York City and Rhode Island) to promote the uptake of performance standards informed by the most current evidence base related to career development for young people in foster care and evaluated the effectiveness of strategies to build the capacity within the foster care workforce to support young people in career development and employment.

Allied Healthcare Training Initiative

This project evaluated a sector based employment initiative that connects out of school/out of work young adults in the South Bronx to jobs in the health care sector. Key to the evaluation was to understand specific types of supports that were most needed and useful in assisting young adults in maintaining connections to education and work.

Peer Providers in Social Service Agencies: Creating Work Settings for Mutual Support

Several Workplace Center projects have been implemented that set in place, and evaluate the effectiveness of, evidence-based strategies that promote the employment of peer providers on treatment teams in mental health agencies. Peers are defined as people with mental health conditions who are without professional credentials but have experience with the mental health system. 

Addressing Poverty through Social Work Practice

The purpose of this project was to expand the capacity of the social work profession to include economic well-being as an essential part of a holistic response to issues caused by poverty. In partnership with the Council on Social Work Education, the Center drafted a resource guide to help educational programs integrate this approach into generalist practice.

Workplace Supports for Parents Who are Caregivers to Children with Asthma

This study, funded by NICHD, explored the impact and feasibility of formal workplace supports to help manage the conflicting demands that arise when working parents simultaneously try to maintain employment and care for their children with asthma. Unattended, these conflicts can undermine parents’ well-being and the effectiveness of the care they provide to their children.