Do Public Neighborhood Centers Have the Capacity to Be Instruments of Change in Human Services?

By Poole, Dennis L.; Colby, Ira C. | Social Work, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Do Public Neighborhood Centers Have the Capacity to Be Instruments of Change in Human Services?


Poole, Dennis L., Colby, Ira C., Social Work


In recent years public officials have shown renewed interest in neighborhood centers as vehicles of innovation in social planning and locality development. Part of the attraction comes from the need to replace fragmented, centralized systems with coordinated networks of services at the neighborhood level (Adams & Krauth, 1995; Healy, 1991; Lord & Kennedy, 1992; Reitan, 1998; Schorr, 1997). Cutbacks in funding for human services have sparked interest as well. Neighborhood centers can mobilize scarce resources and provide feedback to ensure that local service needs are met efficiently (Bond, 1990; McLaughlin & Irby, 1994; Poole & Van Hook, 1997). Another source of interest stems from civic distrust of public bureaucracies. Neighborhood centers can restore civic trust in government institutions by involving citizens in the planning and delivery of human services at the grassroots level (Chapin & Denhardt, 1995; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; MacNair, 1981; McKnight, 1995; Vasoo, 1991).

In this article we examine the capacity of neighborhood centers to perform critical leadership functions in social planning and locality development when public bureaucracies administer them. Data reported in the article were gathered through an independent study of 45 public neighborhood centers in Orange County, Florida, where public officials plan to use them to address mounting human services problems in the area. But findings from the study indicate that most of these centers reflect the characteristics of static rather than dynamic organizations. Major adjustments in their goals, funding, technology, decision making, and performance will be required before public officials can count on them to lead innovations in social planning and locality development. Public officials interested in assigning similar leadership functions to neighborhood centers in other communities should benefit from the findings of the study.

Historical Perspective

Neighborhood centers cover a variety of types and nomenclatures. Although most neighborhood centers are called community centers or family centers (DeAth, 1989; Downie & Forshaw, 1987; Horel, 1987), a few still include the term "settle ment" in their name, reflecting their long-standing affiliation with the settlement house movement (Smith, 1995). In addition, some neighborhood centers offer a variety of services, whereas others deliver one primary service (for example, Head Start or recreation) and various subsidiary services (for example, information, referral, parent education, and child care) (Healy, 1991). Finally, many neighborhood centers serve a broad spectrum of people, but others limit services to people who are economically disadvantaged (Bond, 1990; Halpern, 1995).

Using Rothman's (1974a) three-dimensional model of community organization, the historical functions of neighborhood centers divide into locality development, social action, and social planning. Neighborhood centers were chiefly involved in locality development and social action during the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, many of the early neighborhood centers drew life and inspiration from the settlement house movement, which adhered closely to principles of democracy and of social justice (National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers, 1960). These centers, Smith (1995) argued, involved a wide spectrum of citizens in planning and decision making, redistributed power and resources to disadvantaged segments of the community, and directed services toward family and neighborhood strengths rather than pathologies. Halpern (1995) disagreed, however. He maintained that settlement houses rarely hired neighborhood residents as staff, particularly in positions of authority, and that settlement lea ders, not local residents, usually made key decisions about use of resources.

Social planning gradually usurped locality development and social action as the primary function of neighborhood centers.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Do Public Neighborhood Centers Have the Capacity to Be Instruments of Change in Human Services?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.