Joining Forces: States and Communities Experiment With Child-Services Links

By Deborah L. Cohen — March 15, 1989 9 min read

According to a survey conducted last spring by the National Association of State Boards of Education, most states have put in place some mechanism to foster agency collaboration on issues affecting children and families.

The efforts described in the group’s report, “Joining Forces: Linking Education and Human Services to Help Children and Families At Risk,’' include governors’ initiatives, interagency commissions, memoranda of understanding between agencies, and specific programs linking education and social welfare.

The report catalogs nearly 200 such activities in 47 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Although nasbe cites examples of interagency activity dating back to 1975, 48 of the initiatives it lists have been launched within the last year.

According to the report, at least 30 states have called for some interagency action on dropout prevention for at-risk youths. Other common targets for collaboration include planning services for handicapped infants and toddlers, addressing adolescent pregnancy, and coordinating early-childhood care and education.

State collaboratives are also focusing on welfare and child-welfare reform, services for homeless children, drug abuse, and juvenile-justice services.

At the same time, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and foundations have launched projects linking local schools with social-service and community agencies.

Following is a sampling of some of the collaborative projects drawn from the nasbe report and other sources.

Stimulating local collaboration

Washington State’s Birth-to-Six program fosters collaboration among local agencies through a competitive grant process that requires community agencies to submit joint proposals for funds to plan services for handicapped infants and toddlers.

New Jersey’s School-Based Youth Services program has provided grants to 29 schools and local agencies to provide counseling, health, employment, and recreational services for 13- to 19-year-olds. Agencies must apply jointly for funds and garner the support of teachers’ unions; parent-teacher groups; social service, health, and employment agencies; and business councils.

Maryland’s Investment in Job Opportunities Program provides seed money to help communities create jobs and provide training and job placement for welfare recipients. Each county must develop a plan with the support of local departments of social services, economic-development agencies, and school systems.

Forging interagency agreements

Florida’s 1988 Interagency Cooperative Agreement between the commissioner of education and the secretary of health and rehabilitative services promotes collaboration in school health services, aids education, dropout prevention, child care, and preschool programs.

Washington State’s 1986 memorandum of understanding between the secretary of the department of social and health services and the superintendent of public instruction calls for collaboration on early-childhood and at-risk-youth services.

In response to a 1986 legislative mandate, the Maryland departments of education, human resources, and health and mental hygiene have developed an “interagency plan for children with special needs.”

Promoting collaboration among children’s-services professionals

The Wingspread Center’s “Joining Forces” conference last spring, sponsored by nasbe and the Johnson Foundation, launched a dialogue among top education and human-services officials on how to link education, welfare, and child-welfare programs.

Waukesha, Wis., holds an annual school/human-services collaboration conference, in which teams of educators and human-services personnel address issues of joint concern and develop collaborative proposals used for county planning.

The New Jersey Department of Human Services, under a federal “Youth 2000" grant, held conferences earlier this year to encourage local educators and human-services personnel to launch initiatives similar to those funded under the statewide “School-based Youth Services Program.”

Itasca County, Minn., sponsored a seven-county conference on interagency collaboration that spurred regular meetings between school and human-services officials and led to the development of proposals for joint programming.

Governors and commissions promoting interagency efforts

Gov. Neil Goldschmidt of Oregon initiated a statewide tour early last year calling on communities to develop “children’s agendas” and form local task forces to draft action plans. Based on needs identified by the local groups, the Governor has proposed a $29-million “children’s agenda budget” to fund health, education, and child-care services for children from infancy to age 6.

With support from Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson of Kentucky, the state education department and the Cabinet for Human Resources are working together to develop a unified approach to children’s services. The “Kentucky Integrated Delivery Systems” program is setting aside space at selected schools for human-services personnel and encouraging local agencies to develop collaborative plans.

Gov. Steve Cowper of Alaska named an “Interim Commission on Children and Youth” last year to develop policy recommendations on child care, family violence, youth suicide, teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, dropouts, and runaways.

Drawing on the recommendations of a “Children’s Policy Academy” of policymakers, child advocates, elected officials, and business leaders, Lt. Gov. Marlene Johnson of Minnesota has proposed a state “children’s agenda.” It would invest $65.7 million in the provision and coordination of child care; early-childhood development, dropout-prevention, and physical- and mental-health programs; and family services.

The Virginia legislature recently established a “Council on Child Day Care and Early-Childhood Programs” to coordinate programs operated by a broad range of public and private agencies.

California established a “Comprehensive Children’s Services Steering Committee” last year to improve interagency coordination and recommend funding increases for programs serving at-risk youths.

Linking welfare and education

The Iowa Department of Human Services supplies names of welfare recipients lacking high-school diplomas to adult-basic-education coordinators, who then contact them and encourage them to pursue their education and training.

In Illinois, “Project Pride” provides academic and employment assistance to help young women whose families receive welfare benefits succeed in school and become self-sufficient.

In Detroit and Baltimore, welfare agencies enclose information about school schedules and tips on school preparation with welfare checks.

In White Plains and Binghamton, N.Y., Houston, and St. Louis, welfare agencies provide information on Head Start to families with eligible children.

The Wayne County, Mich., office of social services is working with the Detroit school system to provide a broad range of counseling, family-intervention, tutoring, and recreation programs for children from welfare families who are having trouble in school.

Linking schools and communities

The New York State education department has awarded grants to a dozen elementary schools in economically distressed communities for its “schools as community sites” project, which opens the schools up for an extended day and an extended school year to provide social, health, and recreational services, as well as instructional support. Project guidelines were developed by an interagency task force with representatives from the education, social-services, health, and juvenile-court systems.

The Texas “Communities in Schools” program brings public and private social-service providers into schools to work with at-risk children.

Under a grant from the Aaron Diamond Foundation, New York City has launched the “corridor school program,” which will set up 16 pilot schools as “community centers.” The program will open schools from morning until evening throughout the year to offer social, educational, and health services planned by teachers, parents, and community groups.

A Montgomery County, Md., program sponsored by the county’s Interagency Coordinating Board for the Community Use of Schools and the school system draws on public and private resources to offer after-school services for children in grades 4-8.

Programs planned in consultation with parents and community groups are based at 18 schools and include “enrichment” classes, recreational activities, and supervised study and social time.

The nonprofit organization “Cities in Schools” sponsors dropout-prevention programs in more than 20 cities that place teams of social workers, employment counselors, coaches, educators, health professionals, and volunteers in schools.

Youth Guidance, a Chicago nonprofit agency, offers mental-health and social services for troubled youths at schools in “high-risk” city neighborhoods.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “New Futures” initiative is providing $50 million to support collaborative efforts on behalf of disadvantaged youths in five cities.

The Illinois “Parents Too Soon” program is a prevention program with a uni6fied budget coordinated by the directors of the departments of public health, public aid, and children and family services.

Aiding pregnant teens and involving parents

The Leslie, Mich., school system’s “family learning center” provides an alternative education program, counseling, and parent-education classes for pregnant and parenting adolescents in conjunction with the local public-health, mental-health, and social-services departments.

Missouri’s Parents as Teachers program and Minnesota’s Early Childhood Family Education program draw on schools, social-service, and child-care providers to support young children’s development through teaching parenting skills and building the self-esteem of young parents.

Linking education and housing

Chicago’s Center for Successful Child Development--commonly known as the “Beethoven Project"--provides intensive health, child-development, and education services for pregnant mothers and children in the Robert Taylor Homes. (See Education Week, Feb. 1, 1989.)

It is sponsored jointly by the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the Chicago Urban League with aid from state, local, and private sources.

The Omaha Housing Authority has established study centers, scholarship programs, and family-support programs to help stimulate better school performance for children in public housing.

The District of Columbia public schools have opened study rooms at two public-housing complexes, providing workspace, reference materials, and volunteers.

Training school staff members

In Arkansas, “Project Spark"--an interagency effort involving education, employment, vocational-education, mental-health, child and family services, and alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention programs--trains school counselors to work with at-risk children.

The Bedford County, Tenn., “Service Plus” program, supported by the business community, hires teachers to work in social agencies during the summer.

In the Rockingham County, N.H., Homeward Bound program, the staff of the division of children and youth trains elementary-school teachers “to recognize early signs that a child is in trouble.”

Offering resource materials

The Hillsdale County, Mich., “Adolescent Services Network” of school, health, and human-services staff members compiled a directory to help in referring clients.

Seattle’s department of social and health services has prepared a manual describing how it follows up on reports of child abuse.

To ensure a smooth transition and appropriate follow-up services for Head Start children entering school, Mississippi’s “Resource Access Project” has prepared a guide to “Developing a Collaborative Transition Plan” for Head Start personnel.

For further information on the nasbe report, write the Publications Division, nasbe, 1012 Cameron St., Alexandria, Va. 22314.

The “Unfinished Agenda” series is being supported by a grant from the Exxon Education Foundation.

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 1989 edition of Education Week as Joining Forces: States and Communities Experiment With Child-Services Links