What are comprehensive strategies for children, youth, and families?
Who benefits from comprehensive strategies?
What role do schools play in comprehensive strategies?
Schools, families, and communities across the country--from rural Washington to suburban Missouri to New York City--are developing partnerships that help children and youth, families, and neighborhoods succeed. These broad-based alliances use a range of strategies to build individual skills and local opportunities; improve access to education, health care, and human services; and combine, coordinate, and align community resources and systems. For example:
These collaborative efforts are crucial to the success of children and families who have difficulty benefiting from traditional service and support programs. Traditional programs tend to approach their clients in terms of problems that need treatment, without helping them develop long-term skills or preventive behaviors. Their complex service delivery systems and eligibility requirements are confusing and intimidating for many families, especially those who have low levels of literacy, are not native English speakers, or are newcomers to this country. And many traditional programs are simply unavailable to those who lack transportation or child care or whose work schedules conflict with program hours.
Many schools, parents, human service agencies, churches, nonprofit and volunteer organizations, businesses, and local governments are realizing that by working together they can design strategies that respond to local conditions more effectively and use community resources more efficiently. These partnerships design comprehensive strategies to bring together a range of resources including education, health, mental health, child care, social and recreational services to strengthen families and promote the healthy physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. Comprehensive strategies are similar to projects described as school-based coordinated services in that they often provide centralized access to an array of programs and supports. But while comprehensive strategies may include school-based components, they are broader and more far-reaching endeavors.
Truly comprehensive strategies:
This guidebook explores the issues involved in creating and maintaining these innovative and inclusive school-linked strategies.
Children and families benefit from comprehensive strategies on many levels: they get help facing immediate challenges, learn lifelong methods for improving their own circumstances, gain access to an integrated and streamlined system of continuous human development, and become better able to participate in their own learning. For example, the evaluation of California's statewide Healthy Start program of school-linked services showed significant improvements for core participants in meeting family needs for food, clothing, funding for emergencies, and health and mental health (Wagner & Golan, 1996). Ultimately, children become more ready and able to learn--and more likely to stay in school and benefit from high-quality learning experiences.
Teachers, principals, counselors, nurses, and other school staff also benefit from comprehensive, school-linked strategies. Every day, these practitioners and administrators see that hunger, lack of medical care, inadequate child care, poverty, teen pregnancy, violence, and other social conditions create barriers to students' learning. Through comprehensive strategies, school staff gain allies they can turn to--both inside and outside the school--to help address these challenges. As one principal in a diversely populated school observed, comprehensive strategies change the school atmosphere and the way teachers feel about teaching; teachers feel reassured that they are not alone in working with children and families to remove barriers to learning.
Increased interaction between school and community partners builds trust and understanding among collaborators and institutions and helps schools become more aware of ways they can stimulate family and community strengths to support children's success. As they participate in collaborative partnerships, families and community members begin to relate to the school and its staff with more respect and openness. School violence may decline. Teachers often feel more relaxed, safer, and less distracted by crises that interfere with teaching. Attendance often improves among students and teachers.
By improving student readiness and the conditions for learning, school-linked comprehensive strategies also contribute to academic achievement and to other education improvement efforts. Comprehensive strategies share with innovative teaching approaches:
In addition, comprehensive school-linked strategies involving families and communities make new resources available for achieving the national education goals (see box below). In the context of broad-based, collaborative partnerships, all of the stakeholders who share these goals for academic and human achievement can join together to bring resources to children and families.
Finally, broad-based comprehensive strategies ensure that diverse stakeholders have a voice in changes that will affect them. An emphasis on community strengths and resources keeps partners focused on building capacity among individuals and organizations, rather than on finding stopgap solutions to problems or deficits. The core of a collaborative partnership--the comprehensive view of how to expand people's opportunities--helps partners focus on real issues rather than their symptoms. And when entire communities are involved in framing these issues and exploring strategies, every stakeholder's effort becomes magnified.
The National Education Goals State that by the Year 2000:
Developing a truly comprehensive perspective is a delicate but rewarding balancing act. It involves planning, experimenting, learning, communicating, revising, assessing, and trying again. This process presents a continuous learning experience for school staff as well as for the children and families who participate in these programs.
In school-linked comprehensive strategies, schools are no longer isolated providers of a single component--education for children and youth--but active partners in a broader effort. As partners, schools have increased cooperation, communication, and interaction with parents, community groups, service providers and agencies, local policymakers, and other stakeholders. School staff share their knowledge and experience with the community beyond the schoolhouse walls--and return with fresh inspiration to guide policies and practices within the school. Within these partnerships:
As schools incorporate these ideas into their daily work, all types of staff will collaborate in developing goals, evaluating program effectiveness, representing the school as a community partner, and developing successful strategies for working with parents and community.
Overview of the Guidebook
This guidebook draws on research and experience in developing comprehensive school-linked strategies to help front-line practitioners apply these strategies to their own situation. The ideas, issues, and solutions presented here can help schools and their partners at various stages of program design, implementation, or modification. Because comprehensive strategies vary according to local contexts and partnership dynamics, this book is not a step-by-step guide. Rather, this is a resource book for planning, learning, and doing--a source of practical advice from other practitioners that can help partners pull together a unique, creative response to the conditions of children and families in their community.
This book moves through the essential phases of building comprehensive strategies, with emphasis throughout on the learning that must occur during each part of the process. Chapter 1 explores the process of building collaborative partnerships. Chapter 2 addresses community assessment. One important feature of school-linked strategies is the ability to use and combine resources in new and creative ways; and Chapter 3 reviews some effective strategies for finding and developing these resources. Chapter 4 explains the process of designing and incorporating evaluation in order to provide continuous feedback on progress toward a partnership's goals. Chapter 5 prepares partners to move from designing strategies to implementing activities. Chapter 6 discusses the issue of maintaining a partnership's vitality once programs are in place.
The chapters do not represent consecutive steps that readers should follow. Although it helps to build a partnership and conduct an initial community assessment before developing a program design, you will find that activities such as resource development, evaluation, partnership building, assessment, and program maintenance occur continuously and simultaneously.
Each chapter is based on key questions that collaborators ask as they bring their vision of school-linked comprehensive strategies into reality. Each chapter also includes real-life examples, references to additional sources of information, and a section on using the information to promote learning among partners. Appendix A contains a description of federal legislation that aids schools in their work with families and communities, and Appendix B provides a list of suggested resources.
Additional Resources on School-Linked Services
The Family Resource Coalition (FRC) has an extensive list of publications on developing and implementing school-linked services, including Family Support and School-Linked Services (FRC Reports, Fall/Winter 1993). The FRC is also developing regional networks of family resource centers. Contact: FRC, 200 South Michigan Ave., 16th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604.
The National Community Education Association (NCEA) provides publications and training opportunities for community members and school staff to promote the use of schools as a resource for the community. Contact: NCEA, 3929 Old Lee Highway, Suite 91A, Fairfax, VA 22030-2401.
School-linked Comprehensive Services for Children and Families: What We Know and What We Need to Know, is published by the U.S. Department of Education. This report is based on findings of a conference jointly sponsored by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement and the American Educational Research Association. It includes descriptions of exemplary school-linked service programs and interprofessional development programs. Contact: U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. The stock number is: 065-000-00754-1.
Strong Families, Strong Schools: Building Community Partnerships for Learning, published by the U.S. Department of Education, is a resource for partnerships and family involvement in learning. Contact: 1-800-USA-LEARN.
Together We Can: A Guide for Crafting a Profamily System of Education and Human Services (Melaville & Blank with Asayesh, 1993), is jointly published by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This guide includes information on initiating collaborative efforts, building trust and ownership, developing strategic plans, selecting and training staff, and adapting and expanding successful strategies. It also includes profiles of four successful partnerships. Contact: Single copies are available without charge while supplies last from the U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education (800-424-1616). Additional copies can be obtained from: U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328.
Table of Contents | Next Section