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What Does Research Say About Interagency Collaboration?

C. Bruner, L.G. Kunesh, and R.A. Knuth
NCREL, Oak Brook, 1992

Poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, poor health care and nutrition, substance abuse, inadequate education and training, teen pregnancy, and violence are challenges hundreds of thousands of our youngsters and their families face every day. It is no wonder that children bring more than educational needs into the classroom, that women bring more than employment needs into the welfare office, that teens bring more than health concerns into the health clinic, and that families with infants and toddlers bring more than a need for parenting skills into a family support center.

It is an examination of these realities-by administrators, policymakers, teachers, and other frontline practitioners-that has resulted in a new wave of state and local initiatives to provide more comprehensive and integrated services to children and families. These initiatives are based upon the recognition that, from the perspective of children and families, the current system of services is too often fragmented and difficult to access. Families find our systems are contradictory, restricting, and disempowering. In short, they simply fail to meet the real needs of children and families.

This section illustrates the nature and magnitude of the problem and presents a vision of its solution through interagency collaboration. This story is told through the following areas:

*An Example: The Wagner Family At Risk

*Problems With the Current Service Delivery System

*Viewing the Child in the Context of Family and Community

*Historical Context of Service Integration

*Interagency Collaboration

*Guidelines for Effective Collaborative Planning

*Strategies for Engaging Families and Communities

*Case Management: New Roles/New Relationships

*Evaluation and Accountability Challenges

An Example: The Wagner Family At Risk*

The click of the dead bolt on the front door reminded Tom that he was alone. He knew that his mother's job at the nursing home would keep her away till dark and, for now, he was grateful for the solitude. Another fight had erupted in the early morning hours when Ed, his 17-year-old brother, again came home drunk. Ed hadn't been going to school all semester though his mother only found out when the school sent a notice that he had been expelled for truancy. How was she supposed to know what was going on in school, she said. Didn't she have enough to do making sure they had a roof over their heads? Angry and disappointed, Ms. Wagner told Ed that, if he wouldn't go to school, he had to get a job. He was sure that he could find something better, but finally settled for a fast food job.

School was a touchy subject with Ms. Wagner these days. At work she was told she would be promoted from a nurse's aide to a medicine aide if she passed a course at the community college. She wanted the promotion, but she'd only finished the 10th grade, and her reading and writing skills were so rusty she was afraid to try college-level work. She felt locked in a corner and worried that Alice, Tom's older sister, was heading toward the same dead-end.

When Alice got pregnant, she missed a lot of school and felt as though her teachers treated her differently. Finally, she dropped out. Alice knew she should see a doctor, but she dreaded going to the health clinic alone. Her mother took a day off from work--without pay--so she could help Alice get to the clinic and to the welfare department to sign up for assistance when the baby came.

At the health clinic, Alice wanted to ask the nurse some questions, but she decided not to; everyone seemed in a hurry and annoyed that she had waited so long to come in. At the welfare department, she repeated the information she had given at the health clinic. Mrs. Smith, the intake caseworker, gave Alice the name of an employment and training program in case she wanted to earn a high school equivalency diploma or get a job, though she doubted that Alice would pursue the lead.

When Brandon, Alice's son, was born, he weighed less than three pounds. The doctors said he would probably have ongoing problems. He cried easily and was difficult to soothe. Alice seldom wanted to hold him. Ms. Wagner decided to cut back to part-time work to help Alice manage. She would lose her health insurance and some bills would go unpaid, but what else could she do?

Several months later, a space opened up in the subsidized infant care center a church member had told them about. Soon after, Alice enrolled in the employment and training program she had been referred to. Ms. Wagner, whose job at the nursing home was no longer available, went back to doing day work. Alice loved her high school equivalency and data processing classes but on Wednesday afternoons her class schedule made it impossible to get to the day care center before it closed. Alice tried to explain her predicament to the child care staff but the late pick-up charges kept adding up. Finally the center said she couldn't bring Brandon anymore. The director said they wanted to be flexible but the center had its rules. Alice missed nearly two weeks of class trying to find a babysitter, but no one wanted to watch an infant baby who needed so much attention. Eventually, Alice's place in the employment and training program was given to someone else. For months she seemed angry with everyone, especially Brandon.

On the way to school, Tom thought about how he used to enjoy math. He wondered how it had gotten so complicated, and why he was failing, and dreaded being called on in class. After one particularly humiliating episode, Tom blurted out his school troubles to Hal, a recreational aide at the community center. Hal said Tom should just do his best. Deep down, though, Tom wasn't sure his best was good enough. Remembering the uncompleted homework papers stuffed into his knapsack, Tom winced at the thought of another lecture from Ms. Shaw, his math teacher.

Later that morning, Ms. Shaw corrected papers as her class did seat work. The results of yesterday's pop quiz looked as though Tom still hadn't mastered the mechanics of dividing fractions. Didn't he know that it was only going to get harder? She sighed, suspecting that the didn't get much reinforcement at home. The mother never came to school and hadn't made a peep when her older son dropped out. Someone said they thought there was a girl in the family, too. As she looked at Tom, in the same clothes he'd worn yesterday, struggling to stifle a yawn, the teacher wondered what she could do. Well, if he continues to do poorly and fails the class, she reasoned, at least he'll get some special help. Abruptly the sound of the class buzzer ended her reverie, and she turned her attention to the stack of papers still left to correct.

*Reprinted from Melaville with Blank, 1991.

Problems With the Current Service Delivery System

As the above story illustrates, there are many ways that our current service delivery system fails children and their families. In What It Takes: Structuring Interagency Partnerships to Connect Children and Families with Comprehensive Services, Melaville (with Blank, 1991) discusses five major reasons for this failure.

Reason for Failure                      Explanation/Result

Most services are crisis-oriented. Rather than offering supports of various kinds to prevent difficulties, most services are designed to address problems that have already occurred.

The current social welfare system Services are generally designed to correspond to divides the problems of children and discrete problems and are administered by dozens of families into rigid and distinct separate agencies and programs,, each with its own categories that fail to reflect particular focus, source of funding, guidelines, their interrelated causes and solutions. accountability requirements, and rules governing the expenditure of funds. This fragmentation usually results in providers concentrating on a single solution to a specific problem rather than working together to address the range of situations contributing to a family's problem.

There is a lack of functional Agencies with pronounced dissimilarities in communication between and among public professional orientation and institutional mandates and private sector agencies. seldom see each other as allies, especially when they must compete for scarce resources. Providers typically concentrate on what they are able to provide rather than what their clients need. Children and families in such a system bounce from one agency to the next with little cooperation or follow-up.

Specialized agencies have difficulty Existing staff typically represent only a narrow crafting comprehensive solutions slice of the professional talent and expertise to complex problems. needed to plan, finance, and implement the multiple services which are necessary for successful, comprehensive solutions.

Existing services are In virtually all areas, insufficient funds are insufficiently funded. available to provide the necessary prevention, support, and treatment services to make a lasting difference for young people who must overcome multiple problems and years of neglect. For example, Head Start funding is available to serve only about 25 to 30% of all eligible 3- to 5-year-olds. Employment and training services provided under the Job Training Partnership Act (JPTA) serve less than 5% of eligible youth and provide an average of only 18 weeks of training.

Viewing the Child in the Context of Family and Community

All the educational goals recognize that children bring more than educational needs into the classroom and are most likely to succeed if their family and community support systems also are strong. The first educational goal-"by the year 2000 all children in America will start school ready to learn"-of necessity requires that a broad and family-centered approach be undertaken which recognizes a child's health, family, community, human service, and developmental needs as interrelated and interacting.

In the 1991 Report of the National Task Force on School Readiness, Caring Communities: Supporting Young Children and Families, a "redefinition of school readiness" is offered that acknowledges the interrelated and interacting forces that influence a child. The following is excerpted and/or abstracted from that report

(pp. 10-13).

1. School readiness is more than academic knowledge. Readiness is

based on children's physical health, self-confidence, and social


Physical health is inextricably linked to children's ability to learn:

*Developmental delays, hearing or vision impairments, emotional difficulties, or learning problems often result from inadequate support for health development.

*Children's ability to concentrate is diminished when they are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, under stress, or bothered by the disruptive behavior of others.

*School attendance is often reduced, through absences or time required to get medical attention, when children are in poor health.

In interviews with more than 100 Head Start, child care, and kindergarten teachers, the National Task Force on School Readiness found that self-confidence and ability to cooperate with staff and peers are the key factors in early school success. Teachers explicitly value these traits in children far more than being able to recite the alphabet, recognize shapes, numbers and colors....Further, teachers noted that they are confident they can work successfully with young children who feel good about themselves, are willing to try and are able to enter into the classroom community.

2. School readiness is not determined solely by the innate abilities and

capacities of young children. Readiness is shaped and developed by

people and environments.

While young children are inherently curious, they are not in charge of their "working conditions." Young children depend on adults for nourishment, emotional support, conversation, learning materials, and transportation. Getting ready for school involves helping children in the context of families and improving programs in terms of morale and skill of their staff members.

3. School readiness is not solely determined by the quality of early

childhood programs. Readiness also depends on the expectations and

capacities of elementary schools.

Schools need to get ready for children by upgrading their early childhood services. Curriculum, instruction, and assessment should reflect the knowledge and research we have about how children learn. All age-eligible children should be allowed to enter kindergarten based on chronological age, and not held out or retained because of teachers' inappropriate expectations. Teachers also need the resources and supports to provide developmentally appropriate instruction.

4. School readiness is not solely the responsibility of individual parents.

Communities have a stake in the healthy development of young

children- an obligation to support families.

While families are the primary vehicles for preparing children for school and life, parents can be more successful if they are bolstered by informal and organized supports. Parents need to feel that they can meet the basic needs of their children for safety, for food, for emotional support, and for health care. And parents need to feel that what they do with their children is valuable and important. The best early childhood programs...empower and affirm families....Communities reap long-term benefits for each child who enjoys a successful start in school. Quality services that strengthen families and support early childhood development have far-reaching benefits. On the other hand, families and children who do not receive timely and quality help often require more costly services in future years. For example, we can choose to spend:

$1 on childhood immunizations            OR           $10 in later medical costs

$1 on comprehensive prenatal care OR $3.38 in later health costs for women through Medicaid

$1 for quality preschool education OR $4.75 for later special education, crime, welfare, and other costs

$850 for one year of compensatory OR $4,000 for the cost of a single repeated education grade

$4500 per family for family OR $10,000 for one year of foster care for preservation one child

(Adapted from Children's Defense Fund. [1991]. The State of America's Children, p.6 in National Task Force on School Readiness. [1991]. Caring Communities: Supporting Young Children and Families, p.13).

Clearly, the National Task Force on School Readiness acknowledges that all sectors in a child's life-family, community, school-play a role in determining whether or not a child will be successful.

Historical Context of Service Integration

The lack of an integrated service delivery approach is clearly a major problem facing families in need. Efforts at service integration, however, are not new. In fact, such efforts have existed in this country even before the start of the twentieth century, with settlement houses of the late 1800s working together to identify problems and otherwise offer comprehensive services to families. In the following quote, Eleanor Roosevelt shares her vision of service integration.

It is understandable that organizational prerogatives and specialized concerns tend to dominate services at one point....Perhaps that is as it must be while specialties develop, skills are perfected, and social interests are formed. Is it not, however, a sign of general maturing, of social advance, to become aware also of interdependence?...I am therefore interested in...attempts to develop the notion of a community system of services, mutually interdependent, seeking to locate, evaluate, and serve the interests of families and children in trouble. The concepts of accountability and responsibility...provide the motive power for some sacrifice of traditional prerogatives in the face of community objectives.

-Eleanor Roosevelt, 1963

from Planning Community Services for Children in Trouble

Federal initiatives in the 1960s under the War on Poverty sought to develop more community decision-making capacity through "maximum feasible participation" and the development of new services (e.g., Head Start) and new administrative structures (e.g., Community Action Agencies). Major federal service integration initiatives occurred in the 1970s-under Eliot Richardson and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare-which sought greater coordination and accountability among institutions serving the same children and families.

While elements of both of these federal efforts remain, neither was successful in reshaping the major child-serving institutions-schools, health care providers, and human service agencies-to be more responsive to one another or to the children they served when it came to meeting needs outside their professional jurisdictions. The failure of these programs has been attributed to various reasons. Many blame the complexity of the reform effort itself. Others cite a lack of agreement among agencies on "turf" issues such as governance and responsibility. While the War on Poverty programs failed to offer ownership of the initiatives to the traditional state and community power structures, the service integration initiatives often failed to provide ownership at the community and practice level (Office of Inspector General, 1991; Edelman & Radin, 1992; and Kahn & Kamerman, 1992).

In the eighties, new and, in many ways, more modest federal efforts to develop more comprehensive services for children and families emerged. These encouraged joint planning among health, human service, and education agencies. In some cases, federal funding was conditioned upon joint planning.

Among the most notable of these efforts were PL 99-457 Part H, Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments and the Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP). PL 99-457 Part H requires states to develop cross-system planning structures to define the needs of children with handicapping conditions. CASSP requires similar integrated planning by states for children with mental health problems. More recently, other federal programs serving children have required states to develop cross-system planning structures-e.g., the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Chapter One, and vocational education funding.

This federal emphasis on cross-system planning has served as a catalyst for a variety of state initiatives emphasizing collaborative approaches to serving children and families. In addition, many communities and states, recognizing the tragic implications for families of isolated service delivery, have developed their own collaborative initiatives without the aid of federal support. From the mid-eighties onward, private foundations have been particularly active in offering support for the planning and process work involved in interagency collaboration efforts.

These efforts have assumed many forms-from modest to ambitious, from single-issue to system-reform oriented, from voluntary planning to legislatively restructured financing systems. Much of the focus on service integration and collaboration continues to address children and families receiving services from health, education, and human service agencies. However, substantial recent attention has been given to service collaboration activities as a prevention strategy, with schools increasingly being seen as important collaborators.

Interagency Collaboration

Every day, thousands of stories like the Wagner's take place in our schools and communities-stories of children and families struggling to meet their obligations but finding it difficult to get beyond the myriad of obstacles in their way. For families living in poverty, stories such as this one are the rule, not the exception.

New initiatives to address these problems are generally described as "service integration efforts" or "interagency collaboration," and are becoming widespread. They involve schools, community programs, and a wide variety of health and human service agencies. The goal of most of these new "interagency collaboration" initiatives is to improve child outcomes, broadly defined, through better matching of services and resources to the child's individual needs, recognizing that many of the child's needs are linked to family needs.

Interagency collaborations represent one of the most challenging and important efforts to restructure services to be more responsive to children and families. They involve new relationships between and among service providers and the children and families they serve. In short, they require change.

Interagency collaboration is a means to an end. Generally, the "means" is defined as providing more flexible, comprehensive, and effective services to children and their families than could be provided without such collaboration. The end result is better outcomes for children and families. Some essential elements of comprehensive service delivery made possible through interagency collaborations include:

*Easy access to a wide array of prevention, treatment, and support services, no matter who provides those services

*Techniques to ensure that appropriate services are received and are adjusted to meet the changing needs of children and families

*A focus on the whole family

*Efforts to empower families within an atmosphere of mutual respect

*Continuity in the delivery of services and support, with trust-building relationships between workers and family members

*An emphasis upon improved outcomes for children and families, based upon realistic but high expectations for achievement

(List adapted from Melaville with Blank, 1991)

To determine whether interagency collaboration is the "solution" to the lack of flexible, comprehensive, and effective services in your community, the following questions should be asked:

*Is the result I want to achieve beyond my organization's ability-acting singly-to achieve? (Do I need help?)

*Are there other organizations and agencies that desire similar results with whom my organization can coordinate to better achieve the results I want? (Is there someone who can help?)

*Will this collaboration also help other organizations achieve the results they want? (Will they want to help?)

*Can I afford to spend the time required to develop a collaborative relationship with those organizations? (Is it worth the effort?)

*Is my organization, from top to bottom, ready to make the needed changes in our operations in order to collaborate with others? (Can I make use of help when it is provided?)

These questions underscore the need to identify common interests among the organizations that will be expected to collaborate and to assure that each organization has something to gain from the process. They also underscore the fact that collaborative planning takes resources and time-as the potential collaborating organizations have to learn about and establish trust with one another. Finally, these questions recognize that interagency collaboration is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

Guidelines for Effective Collaborative Planning

Many factors are likely to influence the success or failure of interagency collaborations. In the final analysis, each interagency effort must find its own best way to proceed. No two interagency initiatives will progress in exactly the same way. The following, however, are offered as common sense guidelines to consider in developing interagency partnerships. They are based upon an examination of successful initiatives and the growing body of literature on collaboration (list adapted from Melaville with Blank, 1991).

Characteristic                            Explanation

Involve all key players Commitment to change must be broad-based and should include the participation of not only those with the power to negotiate change, but representatives from the families (including children) whose lives will be affected.

Choose a realistic strategy Partners need to chose a strategy that reflects the priorities of service providers, the public, and key policymakers; the availability of resources; and local needs.

Establish a shared vision Cooperative ventures are based on a recognition of shared clients. Collaborative partnerships must create a shared vision of better outcomes for the children and families they both serve.

Agree to disagree in the process Participants need to establish a communication process that gives them permission to disagree and uses conflict/resolution as a constructive means of moving forward.

Make promises you can keep Setting attainable objectives, especially in the beginning, is necessary to create momentum and a sense of accomplishment.

Keep your eyes on the prize It is easy for collaborative initiatives to become so bogged down in the difficulty of day-to-day operations and disagreements that they lose sight of the forest for the trees. We are striving for better outcomes and more successful futures for our children and families.

Build ownership at all levels The commitment to change must extend throughout the organizational structure of each participating agency. Inservice staff training should allow staff time to air feelings about proposed changes and to predict resulting outcomes of the changes.

Avoid "red herrings" Partners should not let "technical difficulties" impede the development of a shared vision. Most differences usually result from misunderstandings or from policies that can be changed or otherwise accommodated. They should not be allowed to become convenient excuses for partners not fully committed to working together.

Institutionalize change Participants must incorporate partnership objectives into their own institutional mandates and budgets, and earmark the permanent flow of adequate resources to keep joint efforts going.

Publicize your success Interagency partnerships are a promising conduit for the large-scale creation and delivery of comprehensive services to children and families. Well-publicized results that consistently meet reasonable objectives will go far to attract the funding necessary to replicate and expand innovation.

Strategies for Engaging Families and Communities

Ultimately, if services are to be more flexible, comprehensive, and effective, workers at the frontline-teachers, social workers, health practitioners, and community service workers-must be supported in their work with children and their families. This support may require a redefinition of job responsibilities, restructuring of organizational support for these workers, and retraining to assume these new responsibilities. Site-based management offers an opportunity for such redirection, but does not guarantee that interagency collaboration at the community level will be the result.

From the perspective of the child and the family, successful interagency collaboration should mean that the child and family's needs are identified and met in a manner that involves a partnership with the family. For this to occur, service providers at the frontline must be prepared to:

*Listen to and understand the needs of the whole family

*Establish relationships with children and families that allow them to meet these needs

*Develop and implement strategies that will empower families to make appropriate decisions leading to self sufficiency

*Know the resources available within the community to meet special needs which cannot be met directly

*Communicate with other workers who can provide resources to the family

*Establish teamwork with other workers when children and families need services from several organizations at once

*Build community relationships and connections with organizations and individuals who can help support children and families

Often, this role means that frontline workers must exercise a great deal of discretion in working with families. To be successful in exercising this discretion, frontline workers must:

*Receive training so they can respond to a wide variety of child and family needs

*Have access to professional advice and support on new issues as they arise, including training in assuming non-educational roles

*Have job expectations which recognize the time it takes to communicate and coordinate with families and children and with other workers in the system

*Be treated with professional respect and rewarded for using discretion

*Have job expectations which recognize the time it takes to identify and involve community organizations and individuals in supporting children and families

Evaluation and Accountability Challenges

Interagency collaborations should be evaluated in terms of their ability to improve the outcomes for children and families through the provision of more comprehensive, flexible, and effective services. They cannot, however, be expected to produce immediate results. Successful collaborations take time. Still, it is important for collaborations to seek to hold themselves and the organizations they represent accountable for meeting the goals they set for themselves.

In establishing evaluation and accountability systems, interagency collaborations should recognize the following points:

*A strong collaborative initiative may not only improve a child's school performance, but also reduce the child's likelihood of delinquency, unemployment, adolescent pregnancy, or out-of-home placement. A strong evaluation should seek to capture the collaboration's total impact upon children and not simply one program dimension.

*Evaluations that are truly interactive and designed to help collaborators continue to improve their efforts are most likely to be helpful.

*Collecting baseline information on children and families at the school and community level is important for tracking performance over the long term.

*Focus groups or other means of gaining information from teachers and frontline workers and from parents and families can provide valuable information on the extent to which collaboration planning has influenced activity at the service level.

*Formative, or process, evaluations not only are helpful in charting the course of a collaboration, they also provide a valuable record so that lessons learned in the process are not forgotten at a later date.


Follow-up Activities

The involvement of school staff, community agency personnel, parents, and community members is critical to the success of interagency collaborations. Further, any of these people can play the role of catalyst for change. The following are issues that should be considered as individuals and groups examine current practices in schools and communities to establish or refine current interagency collaboration activities. Following this section are some suggested activities that can be undertaken to further discussion on interagency collaboration efforts and the national education goals.

Issues to Consider for Interagency Collaborations

Assessing the Need for a Collaborative Partnership

Schools, agencies, and communities can take the first steps toward improving outcomes for the children and families they serve by asking themselves tough questions about whether their current system needs improvement and if interagency collaboration can produce that improvement.

1. How are we doing on our own?

*Are the lives and the educational performance of the children and youth we serve improving? If not, why not?

*Have we reassessed our mission recently in light of the overlapping economic, health, employment, education, and human service needs of our children?

*Are services to children well-integrated within our own organization (school)? Do staff (teachers) working with the same children and families communicate frequently? Do we feel we can respond effectively to the needs of the children we serve as those needs are identified?

*How well are we connected with other organizations offering services which our children and their families use? Do our line workers (teachers) have effective working relationships with their counterparts in other agencies?

2. Do we need to change?

*How effective will we be in ten years if the needs of our children continue to increase and we continue "business as usual?"

*What resource limitations do we face in bringing more comprehensive services to our children?

*How might close relationships with other organizations help improve outcomes for the children and families we serve?

3. How ready are we to engage in interagency partnerships?

*Do the organizations serving children and families have a common vision of what they are trying to accomplish?

*What is the history of cooperation and collaboration in our community? What lessons can we learn from those experiences?

*Do we have close working relationships with other organizations we might build upon? Is it feasible to develop them?

*What other leaders from the community might we involve to assist in our efforts?

*What are we willing to pay in terms of tangible resources and loss of unilateral control to formulate the common goals and better serve children and families? (adapted from Melaville with Blank, 1991)

Implementing a Collaborative Initiative

In forming and continuing an interagency collaborative planning process, the following questions should be raised:

*Is there a clearly defined problem identified that the interagency collaboration is designed to address?

*Does each member of the group identify this problem as pertinent to their organization's other responsibilities as well as to the group itself?

*Does the mission of the group require the development of measurable goals, based upon child and family outcomes?

*Does the responsibility of the group include the development of action steps, and time-frames for taking those steps, that will be attempted to meet those goals?

*Are all key stakeholders represented in the collaboration, and can additional stakeholders be added so that the collaboration remains inclusive?

*Is the collaboration organized and structured to enable it to make decisions and resolve disputes when they arise?

*Is sufficient status given to membership so that representatives from organizations can carry forward recommendations within their organizations?

*Is there a strong role for frontline workers in collaboration planning decisions, not only to provide feedback but also to set direction?

*Are there mechanisms in place to obtain meaningful participation from the parents and children to be served?

*Are members provided sufficient support and staffing to implement their recommendations?

*Is the collaboration provided sufficient authority so that members implement its recommendations?

*Is the guiding thrust of the collaboration for each member to seek ways their respective organizations can help to meet the collective goals of the collaboration? (adapted from Bruner, 1991)

Supporting Changes in Service Delivery

In assuring that changes that provide more flexible and comprehensive responses are provided to children and families at the service level, the following questions should be asked:

*Do teachers and other frontline workers feel they have more ability to help the children and families they serve as a result of collaboration?

*Do teachers and other frontline workers feel they have the training needed to respond more flexibly and comprehensively to children and families?

*Do teachers and other frontline workers feel they have the administrative support needed to respond more flexibly and comprehensively to children and families?

*Do parents and children feel more positive about their involvement with schools and other organizations?

*Do parents and children feel their own needs are better recognized and addressed?

*Are communications among workers improved and do workers feel that other organizations respond better to the children and families they refer?

Improving Child Outcomes

The following are questions that should be asked with respect to evaluation and accountability:

*Do members of the interagency collaboration define the goals for the collaboration in terms of specific outcomes for children and families?

*Do members share collective accountability for improving those outcomes?

*Have a broad-based set of outcomes been identified, both short-range and long-range?

*Are these outcomes being tracked on a regular basis?

*Is the information obtained from evaluation used to help improve the performance of the collaborative activity?

*Are successes achieved through collaboration well-publicized and used to sustain commitment to the effort?

Other Activities

As groups begin the process of examining their needs and resources, they may find it helpful also to consider the following activities:

1. Re-read the story at the beginning of Section 2 of this Guidebook. Think about

one or two families in your own community that have multiple needs. Discuss

how current agencies might work together to address the families' needs.

Note resources available within your community and the gaps in services that

may exist.

2. Identify current interagency collaborations and/or committees within your community and find out what their missions are. Are there mechanisms for recommending people for membership who would be articulate spokespersons representing different views, including but not limited to families, schools,

agencies, and the community in general? Pursue opportunities to attend

meetings and offer testimony and feedback to members of the interagency collaboration.

3. Make a list of all of the different types of people who might possibly be involved in service delivery (e.g., social workers, community members, parents, nurses, teachers, agency personnel, etc.) What new roles, responsibilities, knowledge,

and skills will each of these need in order to work within a comprehensive, integrated interagency collaboration? What mechanisms currently exist to

provide people with training and retraining? What additional training may be necessary?

School/Community Forums Around the National Education Goals

As was discussed in Section 2 of this Guidebook, all of the national education goals recognize that children bring more than educational needs into the classroom and are most likely to succeed if their family and community support systems also are strong. School staff, agency personnel, parents, and community members can:

1. Promote school and community forums to debate the national educational goals:

*Invite local media to host school and community forums

*Sponsor "revolving school/community breakfasts" or other means for informal interchange of ideas

*Gather information on the national eduction goals and their assessment

*Gather information on alternative models of schooling, including community schools

*Gather information on best practices and research on working with children and their families both within and outside the classroom

Some of the important questions and issues to discuss in your forums are:

*Have we reviewed the national education goals documents to arrive at a common understanding of each goal pertinent to our community?

*What community institutions and organizations must be involved to assure these goals can be reached?

*What must schools and their communities be like to achieve these goals?

*How are our schools doing in terms of achieving each goal, and what help do they need from other organizations to achieve them?

*What are the consequences to the community and to all institutions and organizations within the community if we don't achieve them?

*What collective responsibility should all institutions and organizations assume in meeting the goals?

2. Consider ways to use this and other program guidebooks produced as part of the Schools That Work: The Research Advantage series to promote

understanding and commitment from school staff, parents, and community

members to provide more effective services for children that lead to meeting

the national education goals.


Important Resources


Several guides have been produced on the topic of interagency collaboration that have been specifically designed for practitioners at the community and state levels.

Bruner, C. (1991). Thinking collaboratively: Ten questions and answers to help policy makers improve children's services. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Edelman, P., & Radin, B. (commentary by S. Gardner). (1992). Serving children and families effectively: How the past can help chart the future. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Melaville, A. (with Blank, M.). (1991). What it takes: Structuring interagency partnerships to connect children and families with comprehensive services. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

The three guides above can be purchased for $3.00 each (prepaid) from:

The Institute for Educational Leadership

1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 310,

Washington, D.C. 20036


Blank, M. & Lombardi, J. (1992). Toward improved services for children and families: Forging new relationships through collaboration. Policy Brief based on the Eighth Annual Symposium of the A.L. Mailman Foundation, The Institute for Educational Leadership.

The above resource is also available from IEL at the address above. The cost is $4.50 for the first copy and $3.00 for each additional copy (prepaid orders only).

Greenberg, M. & Levy, J. (1992). Confidentiality and collaboration: Information sharing in interagency efforts. Denver, CO: Joining Forces, American Public Welfare Association, Center for Law and Policy, Council of Chief State School Officers, & Education Commission of the States (ECS).

The above guide can be purchased for $6.00 plus postage and handling from:

ECS Distribution Center

707 17th Street, Suite 2700

Denver, CO 80202-3427


Ask for No. AR-92-1

Publications, continued

Himmelman, A. (1991). Communities working collaboratively for a change. Minneapolis, MN: Himmelman Consulting Group.

The above guide can be purchased for $10.00 plus postage and handling from:

Himmelman Consulting Group

1406 W. Lake Street, Suite 209

Minneapolis, MN 55408


Kirst, M.W., & McLaughlin, M. (1990). Improving Policies for Children: Proceedings of the 1989 New York Education Policy Seminar [Rockefeller Institute Special Report Number 29]. Albany, NY: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

The above report is available for $3.00 (20% discount for 10 or more) from:

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

411 State Street

Albany, NY 12203


National Assembly. (1991). The community collaboration manual. Washington, DC: Author.

The above guide can be purchased for $12.45 (includes postage and handling) from:

The National Assembly

1319 F Street, N.W., Suite 601

Washington, DC 20004


Sugarman, J.M. (1991). Building early childhood systems: A resource handbook. Washington, DC: Jule Sugarman & the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Inc.

The above guide may be purchased for $13.95 (prepaid) from:


300 Raritan Center Parkway

Edison, NJ 08818


Stock #4514

Publications, continued

United Way of America's Mobilization for America's Children. (1992). Standards for success: Building community supports for America's children. Alexandria, VA: Author.

You may order the above guide by contacting:

Mr. Kurt Johnson

WhatWorks Center

United Way of America

701 N. Fairfax Street

Alexandria, VA 22314



Several organizations have as primary roles the development of comprehensive services for children through interagency collaboration. They represent good initial contacts for information.

The Center on Effective Services for Children

P.O. Box 27412

Washington, D.C. 20038-7412


The Center on Effective Services for Children is a newly established not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of children's services.

Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning

The Johns Hopkins University

3505 North Charles St.

Baltimore, MD 21218


The mission of the Center is to produce useful knowledge on how changes in the social organization of schools can influence a broad range of student outcomes. The center specializes in basic research and policy related analyses on new structural forms, social arrangements, and organizational improvements for classrooms, schools, and school systems that can be shown to have measurable consequences for student learning, attitudes, and later-life success in occupational and adult roles.

Organizations, continued

Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP)

1250 Eye Street, N.W., Suite 503

Washington, D.C. 20005


The Center provides information on the principles of interagency and intergovernmental planning, budgeting, and service delivery.

Children's Defense Fund (CDF)

Education Division

122 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20005


CDF, a private, non-profit, advocacy organization, gathers data, publishes reports, and provides information on key issues affecting children. It also monitors the development and implementation of federal and state policies, provides technical assistance and support to a network of state and local child advocates, organizations, and public officials, and pursues an annual legislative agenda.

Institute for Educational Leadership

1001 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Suite 310

Washington, D.C. 20036


The Institute for Educational Leadership is dedicated to collaborative problem-solving strategies in education, and among education, human services and other sectors. The Institute's programs focus on leadership development, cross-sector alliances, business-education partnerships, school restructuring, and programs concerning at-risk youth.

Joining Forces

400 North Capitol Street

Suite 379

Washington, D.C. 20001


Joining Forces promotes collaboration between education and social welfare agencies on behalf of children and families at risk. Information is available on strategies and programs for successful collaboration.

Organizations, continued

National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and

Social Welfare Organizations, Inc.

1319 F Street, N.W., Suite 601

Washington, D.C. 20004


The National Assembly is an association of national voluntary human service organizations that work together to advance the mission of each agency and the human service sector as a whole. The Assembly facilitates organizational advocacy for public policies, programs, and resources which are responsive to human service organizations and those they serve.

National Center for Service Integration

Suite 702

5111 Leesburg Pike

Falls Church, VA 22041


The National Center was established in 1991 through federal funding and operates a clearinghouse of service integration efforts and a technical assistance resource network. Its mission is to complement the work of others active in service integration and interagency collaborations at the community and state levels and to serve as a connecting point for those both implementing and providing technical assistance to service integration initiatives.

National Resource Center on Family Support Programs

Family Resource Coalition

200 S. Michigan Avenue

Suite 1520

Chicago, IL 60604


The National Resource Center on Family Support Programs was established in 1991 through federal funding and serves as a resource center for the many innovative, community-based programs and services seeking to provide support to families that is truly family-focused.


New Beginnings

New Beginnings is a unique interagency collaborative involving the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego, San Diego City Schools, San Diego Community College District, the San Diego Housing Commission, Children's Hospital, and the University of California at San Diego. The New Beginnings approach seeks to improve services to children and families through creation of a new system focused on prevention and integrated services.

New Beginnings I (April, 1991). 14:05 minutes. $10.

New Beginnings II (April, 1992). 15 minutes. $10.

Innovative Projects

San Diego City Schools

4100 Normal Street

San Diego, CA 92103-2682



Case Conference Guidelines and Procedures, implemented by Fulton County Schools and Stepping Stones: For Initiating an Interagency Agreement for the Fulton County KIDS Project are available free of charge by contacting:

Glenda Cochrum

Fulton County KIDS Project

Fulton County Schools

900 Moscow

Hickman, KY 42050


Tackling the Confidentiality Barrier can be purchased for $6.50 (prepaid) from:

Office of the Deputy Superintendent

San Diego City Schools

4100 Normal Street

San Diego, CA 92103


The Future of Children (Vol. 2, #1), focuses on school-linked services and is available free of charge from:

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation

Center for the Future of Children

300 Second Street, Suite 102

Los Altos, CA 94022




An important variable that affects interagency collaborations is the set of governing policies which each agency brings to the table. These policies include rules and regulations of the federal, state, and local policies, guidelines, and definitions that establish their institutional mandates; target population and eligibility requirements; budgets and programmatic reporting cycles; methods of supervision and evaluation; salary and career development structures; and operational "language," among others (adapted from Melaville with Blank, 1991).

The issue of definitions and operational language can be critical to the success or failure of collaborations. While we have provided a few terms and definitions in this section, it is imperative that each collaborative explore the various definitions of terms applicable to their own settings. In some cases, the same term will mean different things to different service providers. We recommend that, at an early stage, participating agencies explore terms, definitions, and operational language and come to consensus on what these will mean in light of the shared goals of the collaborative.

Collaborations Organizational and interorganizational structures where resources, power, and authority are shared and where people are brought together to achieve common goals that could not be accomplished by a single individual or organization independently (Kagan, 1991).

Collaboration at the Service Delivery Level Instead of focusing on their individual agendas, collaborative partnerships establish common goals. In order to address problems that lie beyond any single agency's exclusive purview, but which concern them all, partners agree to pool their resources, jointly plan, implement, and evaluate new services and procedures, and delegate individual responsibility for the outcomes of their joint efforts (Melaville with Blank, 1991).

Collaboration at the System Delivery Level Collaborative ventures at the system level are empowered-politically, by virtue of their members' collective "clout," or legally, by the state or other entity-to negotiate, as well as advocate for, programs and policies leading to more comprehensive service delivery (Melaville with Blank, 1991).

Cooperation at the Service Delivery Level In a cooperative arrangement at the service delivery level, partners help each other meet their respective organizational goals. They do so without making any substantial changes in the basic services they provide or in the rules and regulations that govern their agencies (Melaville with Blank, 1991).

Cooperation at the System Level At the system level, cooperative initiatives assess the need for more comprehensive services and recommend strategies to coordinate existing services. Because partners are not required to commit budgetary support or to make policy decisions on behalf of the organizations they represent, cooperative initiatives advocate for, rather than negotiate, policy (Melaville with Blank, 1991).

Frontline Worker People at local community sites (e.g., school, health clinics, welfare offices) who are involved directly in providing education, health, and social services to children and families.

Interagency Between and among two or more agencies or service providers.

Intra-agency Within one agency or service provider.

Outcome Result or consequence. Examples of improved outcomes for children may be healthier babies, improved student achievement, less need for special education, or higher graduation rates.

School-linked Services An interagency system linking schools and local public and private human service agencies with the support of business, higher education, and other community resources to meet the interrelated education, health, and social needs of children. School-linked does not mean the school is the institution that funds all of the services or dominates their delivery.

Site-based Management An administrative system in which an individual institution or agency (e.g., school) exercises autonomous decisionmaking on budgets, services, and personnel within policy guidelines set by its governing board.



Bruner, C. (1991). Thinking collaboratively: Ten questions and answers to help policy makers improve children's services. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Bruner, C., & Carter, J. (1991). Family support and education: A holistic approach to school readiness. Denver, CO: Network Briefs of the NCSL Women's Network, National Conference of State Legislatures.

Children's Defense Fund. (1991). The state of America's children 1991. Washington, DC: Author.

Chynoweth, J., & Dyer, B. (1991). Strengthening families. Washington, DC: Council of Governors' Policy Advisors.

Committee for Economic Development. (1990). The unfinished agenda: A new vision for child development and education. New York: Statement of the Research and Policy Committee of the Committee for Economic Development.

Dryfoos, J. (1990). Adolescents at risk: Prevalence and prevention. New York: Oxford University Press.

Edelman, P., & Radin, B. (1992). (commentary by Gardner, S.). Serving children and families effectively: How the past can help chart the future. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Himmelman, A. (1991). Communities working collaboratively for a change. Minneapolis, MN: Himmelman Consulting Group.

Kagan, S. (1991). United we stand: Collaboration for child care and early education services. New York: Teachers College Press.

Kagan, S., Rivera, A., & Parker, F. (1990). Collaborations in action: Reshaping services for young children and their families. New Haven, CT: Yale University Bush Center in Child Development.

Kahn, A. (1963). Planning community services for children in trouble. Forword by Eleanor Roosevelt. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kahn, A., & Kamerman, S. (1992). Integrating services integration: An overview of initiatives, issues, and possibilities. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Levine, C. (Ed.). (1988). Programs to strengthen families: A resource guide. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Family Resource Coalition.

Levy, J. (with Copple, C.). (1989). Joining forces: A report from the first year. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education.

Melaville, A. (with Blank, M.). (1991). What it takes: Structuring interagency partnerships to connect children and families with comprehensive services. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium.

National Assembly. (1991). The community collaboration manual. Washington, DC: Author.

National Task Force on School Readiness. (1991). Caring communities: Supporting young children and families. Washington , DC: National Association of State Boards of Education.

Office of Inspector General. (1991). Services integration: A twenty-year retrospective. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services.

Ooms, T., & Herendeen, L. (1989). Integrated approaches to youths' health problems: Federal, state, and community roles. Washington, DC: Family Impact Seminar and Coalition of Family Organizations.

Schorr, L., Both, D., & Copple. C. (Eds.). (1991). Effective services for young children: A report of a workshop. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

United Way of America's Mobilization for America's Children. (1992). Standards for success: Building community supports for America's children. Alexandria, VA: United Way.

Weiss, H., & Halpern, R. (1991). Community-based family support and education programs: Something old or something new? New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Weiss, H., & Jacobs, F. (Eds.). (1988). Evaluating family programs. New York: Aldine De Gruyter.
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