Kentucky Migrant Vocational Rehabilitation Project

In the early 1990s a farm labor shortage prompted an influx of Hispanic migrant farmworkers through farm labor contractors. Over the next fifteen years, the Hispanic population in Central Kentucky grew to between 30,000 and 50,000 Hispanics of working age. Approximately 20 percent of those individuals were believed to be undocumented. Until the Kentucky Migrant Vocational Rehabilitation Project (KMVRP) there were few opportunities or resources for the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to extend services to Hispanic migrant and seasonal farmworkers. By partnering with the Kentucky Farmworker Outreach Program, AgrAbility and the Graduate Center for Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Kentucky, the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation wanted to create a model that would overcome service barriers such as language, culture, and mobility. The goal of the Kentucky Migrant Vocational Rehabilitation Project was to “design, implement, and evaluate a partnership model that improves the delivery of vocational rehabilitation services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers with disabilities and their families in a five-county area of Central Kentucky.” The applicant organization was the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, which subcontracted 100% of the grant funds to the Kentucky Farmworker Outreach Program in the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention. The Kentucky Farmworker Outreach Program was responsible for grant coordination between the multiple project partners, in addition to its outreach and case-finding activities. Outreach was performed in seven counties in Central Kentucky: Bourbon, Clark, Fayette, Jessamine, Madison, Scott, and Woodford Counties. This coverage spanned 1,917 total square miles that contained an estimated 5,797 farms.

The KMVR Project met and even exceeded four of five project objectives, most importantly, improving capacity to serve the Hispanic community. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation reported that its staff became more prepared to work with the Hispanic farm worker population and began to establish mutually beneficial relationships with other agencies and community leaders. Another promising result of the project was that more community agencies and organizations now know about the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and its services.

In the five years of the project, outreach workers contacted 355 migrant farm workers or their family members. Of these 355 persons, 94 became VR referrals, with 10 of the referrals going on to demonstrate positive employment outcomes (PEOs). Disabilities included HIV/AIDS, orthopedic issues, and mental health issues. Approximately 64 percent of farm workers contacted did not meet program eligibility criteria because they lacked legal immigration status.

The final report for the Kentucky Migrant Vocational Rehabilitation Project 2000-2005 was prepared by Karen Cinnamond, MSW and is archived at the Southeast Center for Agricultural Health and Injury Prevention. See also Breeding RR, Rogers JB, Harley DA, Crystal RM. The Kentucky Migrant Vocational Rehabilitation Program: A demonstration project for working with Hispanic farm workers. J Rehabil. 2005;71(1):32-41,ISSN: 0022-4154 CINAHL AN: 2005074642.