Magazine article Policy & Practice

Partnership for Schools

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Partnership for Schools

Article excerpt

We know all too well the scourge of substance abuse, especially the devastation of methamphetamine on our communities; we see first hand the effects of poverty; and we need no special reminders of the impact of domestic violence on families.

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We know that these problems affect the entire family, not just the afflicted. They especially affect children--open, vulnerable, impressionable, and hungry to survive.

So we operate programs to treat and prevent these human service problems. That's the business we are in.

In times of diminishing resources, we are compelled to work with other governments, non-profits, and community groups that want the same outcomes as we do. Some say government's success in the 21st century depends on making such horizontal connections work.

We've cultivated multiple community partners; yet we may be neglecting a powerful ally and a high-leverage opportunity for collaboration.

How is it that we have not nurtured our relationship with schools?

I've served as director of Ohio's Department of Human Services (DHS), as Pennsylvania welfare's chief deputy, and have devoted 20 years to human service information technology, including nine years as Oregon DHS chief information officer. I now work in public education partly because I believe it is through the ability of education to produce successful young adults that we find hope for solutions to the issues we face as human service professionals.

I've seen many opportunities for linkages between schools and human services. I've been inspired by bold initiatives in Wake County, N.C., and Charlotte/Mecklenburg County, N.C., and by work in my school district.

The Partnership for Educational Success in Wake County has school district and county human service multi-disciplinary teams working with at-risk families. The focus is on helping the child succeed by engaging the family. Outcomes include 96 percent of families of children who are struggling in school are engaged and 72 percent of students showed improvements in literacy and math skills. "That's a statistic you cannot ignore," says an executive in my school district.

I asked the Wake County human service director what she got from the partnership. She said, "Prevention! Every kid I help complete his or her education, not become a teen parent or stay out of the juvenile justice system has a chance to become a productive member of society, rather than an adult consumer of human services. …

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