Redesigning the Work of Human Services

Redesigning the Work of Human Services

Redesigning the Work of Human Services

Redesigning the Work of Human Services

Synopsis

Redesigning the Work of Human Services explores alternative organizational designs for the delivery of human services--designs that emphasize collaborative governance and partnerships among public and private agencies, local control and responsibility for results, and the use of innovative information, planning, and community capacity-building technologies. This book redefines the debate about whether human services should be privatized or not. The author suggests that the basic task of human services--to enable families to socialize the young--is one that can neither be fulfilled effectively by the state nor by private agencies. Rather, carefully crafted public-private partnerships, when combined with new accountability mechanisms and the sophisticated use of emerging information technologies, are likely to offer more in the way of effective, efficient, and appropriate human services. Because this work is solidly grounded in the literature on both human and business services, the author's suggestions for major redesign are comprehensive and intelligently qualified.

Excerpt

During the last decade, the problems of homelessness, youth violence, drug use, depression, teenage pregnancy, family dependence on public assistance, and increasing numbers of children living in poverty or being abused and neglected have resulted in numerous reassessments of the welfare and human services state. Each of these reassessments has brought a new realism to the prognosis that human services might be able to substantially improve the lives of children and families. On the one hand are those who are pessimistic about the ability of even the best-designed programs and services to make a difference for families living in deteriorated or underclass neighborhoods. This outlook recognizes that social service provision has, at best, a minor effect when compared to the larger social, cultural, and economic factors that impinge on the lives of children and families. Human services programs acting at the individual or even neighborhood or community level of service provision are, in this view, not able to control very many of the incentives and supports that are thought to underlie successful lives. in addition, it is argued that provision of some human services such as income assistance can, over time, undermine the incentives for self-sufficiency that would otherwise exist in the larger society. Pessimists believe that the availability of subsidized services will lead to more and more families utilizing these services, potentially breaking the fiscal back of the state, and in cases where benefits are contingent on low income or nonwork, lead to an unnecessary decrease in self-sufficiency (Evans, 1989). the pessimistic outlook on the work of human services is naturally conservative and often suggests that human services will have a perverse effect, causing overall harm as they attempt to provide help in individual cases. This outlook partakes of the notion that "the poor will always be with us," and it suggests that sending the right moral signals is the most effective policy and program option (e.g., misbehavior in school will be punished, having children . . .

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