Pathways: The Opportunities Ahead for Human Services: An Open Letter from APHSA to Presidential Candidates, National Policymakers and Other Stakeholders

By Wareing, Tracy | Policy & Practice, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Pathways: The Opportunities Ahead for Human Services: An Open Letter from APHSA to Presidential Candidates, National Policymakers and Other Stakeholders


Wareing, Tracy, Policy & Practice


This month we are pleased to share with our readers an open letter from APHSA on behalf of our membership to the presidential candidates, national policymakers, and other key stakeholders. This letter--released in December--marked the official launch of APHSA's new initiative, Pathways: The Opportunities Ahead for Human Services.

As I shared with you in my December column, APHSA's state commissioners and local directors have come together behind a collective vision for a more effective health and human service system that will improve outcomes, be accountable for meaningful and sustainable results, engage the resources of the entire community, and use public funds in the most effective possible manner.

Our members work to achieve better, healthier lives for children, adults, families, and communities--so that we can best serve both the families who seek our help, our communities, and society at large. Most people know us through our administration of specific programs that have been traditionally structured to answer particular needs--including child protection, job preparation, child support, food assistance, and care for the elderly, among others. These discrete benefits and services are critically important, yet they are tools we employ toward a much broader and more holistic mission: investments that enable children, families, and adults to achieve meaningful and lasting positive outcomes in their lives.

The current economy has created the challenging dilemma of high demand for assistance coupled with tight budgets. Our members share an intense concern over how all Americans can move toward these better outcomes at a time when difficult questions of national spending must be resolved. As we note in the open letter, "We cannot bring successes to scale under the current federal policy and funding frame-work ... A sustainable and national solution requires new approaches to public investment, a new commitment to outcomes over process, and mutual responsibility for the well-being of all Americans."

These issues will be among those at the center of the 2012 presidential campaigns and congressional debates, and that is why we have begun the Pathways initiative by issuing this open letter, which sets the framework for how human services can be modernized and transformed. The Pathways initiative is designed to develop, build consensus for, and implement an outcomes-based, integrated, client-centric system of policy and practice for human services.

As described in Pathways, we can no longer afford to use valuable public dollars for short-term, temporary fixes, something the present fragmented, output-driven system has done for far too long. With appropriate improvements, the human service system can provide our clients and the larger society with better results, greater efficiency, and stronger, healthier, and more independent lives.

Pathways emphasizes prevention efforts that strengthen families and communities before individuals find themselves in need of assistance; early intervention that moves at-risk families toward a more positive path; and bridge supports that provide temporary but vital opportunities for quick movement into the workforce. In addition, Pathways urges efforts to build capacity incentives to hire those needing work and encourage sustainability through supportive infrastructure and far greater use of community, faith, and home-based interventions and services.

Many agencies around the country are now implementing creative, effective practices and programs that demonstrate this vision. But to achieve that vision on a national scale, Pathways calls for key organizational tools to be available to all agencies. These include the ability to use funding more effectively; a modern and integrated technology infrastructure; a talented and strategically deployed workforce; accountability for meaningful outcomes; and client engagement that leads to appropriate responses to each person's and family's situation. …

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