Magazine article Policy & Practice

Consensus and Dedication

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Consensus and Dedication

Article excerpt

All of us in public human services realize that resolving difficult issues is not a solitary process or one that happens without personal dedication and hard work.

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Solving difficult issues usually involves the cobbling together of resources and talent from public agencies as well as the contribution of the nonprofit community and the private for-profit sector. But the most important thing is the will--or dedication--to get it done; such a key ingredient is too frequently neglected.

I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to dedicate my life to public human services and work to improve the lives of low-income citizens. Beginning in 1972 as a caseworker in a seasonal farm worker program in Pennsylvania's fruit country, I learned early not only to pool scarce resources to help migrant workers and their families, but also to help create a "will" in the community at large to meet the responsibility to help. Creating that consensus of care among often disparate interests was largely a political campaign guided by basic life principles such as the Golden Rule, along with a lot of arm-twisting and appeal to self-interest. Supported by Lutheran Social Services, the program depended on local people, businesses and service providers for financial and in-kind support. A consensus was built to meet the needs of the workers, who are the base of the county's economic structure. It was not until many years later that political will created the federal and state resources necessary to support this and programs like it around the nation.

These lessons on the importance of consensus and political will have guided my work at improving public human services through legislation and program development and implementation. Whether it was the establishment of a permanent food stamp program in Adams County, Pa., the passage of the landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996, or a myriad of other public policies and programs to help low-income families, none would have been developed without the political will to do so and the forging of strong "strange-bedfellow" coalitions to ensure their fruition.

Following years of client advocacy focused on federal food assistance programs, I joined APHSA, then known as APWA, in 1986. …

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