Memorandum on Successful Reforms in Missouri
The family represents the smallest most important unit in any society, and the progress and development of any society depends on the state of this unit of society. The success of any civilization is based on the standard of life of its people and especially how it manages its at-risk populations. These are the most vulnerable in society and who depend on some assistance to lead a decent life. In Missouri, the Department of Social Services (DSS) works together with the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health to serve these vulnerable populations (Busey, 2001). However, a plethora of problems and barriers has hindered the provision of effective services to families and at-risk children in Missouri. (Dobel, Elmore, and Wemer, 2003). This Memo addresses the problems, offers solutions, and proposes strategies to counter the problems
Challenges and Barriers to Service Provision
The first problem that faced the provision of efficient services is the lack of coordination between the various government agencies concerned. It was not uncommon to find one case involving several departments simultaneously. A case involving a delinquent attending language classes and serving their community service sentence would involve several social service providers. These are the probation officer, Division of Family Services (DFS), Division of Youth Services (DYS) and District Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). These departments work independently duplicating a lot of information in the process, which could have been avoided, had they been in collaboration. Tough regulations and privacy policies prevent these departments from sharing even the most basic information (Busey, 2001). This results in higher costs, wastage of resources, time and inefficient services. The clients are forced to repeat the same information severally, making them uncomfortable and wary of the service providers.
Another challenge is the competition and distrust that exists between the agencies. The DMH views the DSS as a large and powerful organization with more authority and responsibility. The smaller department employees feel threatened by the size of the DSS and the fact that it has more departments under its umbrella. Their fear is that collaboration will favour the larger organization and reduce them to a supporting role.
Policy formulation is also another major problem. A disconnect exits between those charged with coming up with the policies and those implementing them (Busey, 2001). This gap is both geographical and philosophical. Programs are planned at the state level with minimal or no input from the community targeted or the ground service providers. Decision-making is done at the upper level with no consideration for the role that the private sector could play to the provision of social services (Busey, 2001). The private sector’s opinion is only considered when lobbying during the planning and budgeting process. The private sector reported feeling left out despite having knowledge and expertise that could be useful to the provision of better services.
Another approach would be to increase cooperation between the agencies. The privacy policies should be corrected to allow sharing of vital information necessary for better service provision to the clients. Unnecessary barriers to access of information should be broken down. Whenever possible, all agencies involved should come together and work on a case as a team and not as individual departments. This will increase the quality of services offered to the families because of better coordination. Operation costs will also be reduced because there will be no repetition of work, less paper work and time wastage on bureaucracy.
Finally, a solution should be found to the internal wrangles that exist among the agencies. Any attempts at cooperation would not succeed if some departments view others as posing a threat to their authority and autonomy. These threats majorly come from the scope of services offered, the budgetary allocation of each department and their size compared to the others. Each agency’s autonomy should be respected and its role in the bigger picture being clearly defined. The other solution lies in involving other independent groups in the implementation of these policies. The private sector would provide better coordination for such services especially because they have no need to compete with the other agencies. In addition to a no biased management of the programs, the private sector will also contribute the much needed additional funding to these programs.
For the social policies to serve the communities effectively, several factors have to be fulfilled. As stated earlier, policies and new programs have to be formulated in consultation with all the stakeholders (Busey, 2001). From there, the agencies should then lobby for funding and adequate financial allocation to their programs. The policies will only be successfully implemented in the communities if there is adequate financing for the programs that will be developed from them. The various agencies will be able to provide social assistance to as many families as may need it. Funds have been a major issue with social services agencies because governmental budgetary constraints which limit its ability to fully meet all the financial requirements of its agencies. The private sector can help through direct contribution to some of these programs and through lobbying the legislature to approve new projects and budgetary increments.
The first strategy to improve social services in Missouri will be to come up with programs that build the family as an institution and promote family and community intervention to the problems facing children and families. Separation from family should be used as a last resort where all the other options have been exhausted. Family should come first since it is the surest way to provide continued support and guidance to the children even when they become adults. It is also better to take care of troubled children in their homes, close to relatives rather than in a controlled institutional setting away from family and friends.
The community based partnerships and family focused initiatives should come up with benchmarks, which will be used to measure the success of the initiatives. These benchmarks should be based on the specific problems facing the families that constitute the community. These benchmarks will consider factors such as children and family safety, health and the children’s education in school from entry to exit. Other benchmarks will look at the number of parents in gainful employment and youth transition to into adulthood and the problems that face them such as drug use and teenage pregnancy. The benchmarks will also provide guidelines for which areas of social problems to address and which ones have been adequately tackled. This is because social problems often vary over time depending on other factors such as the economy and demographic changes. This information will be used to adjust the programs accordingly and shift focus, energy and resources where it is needed.
The second strategy will be to create strong partnerships between the government agencies and the private sector for the purpose developing better children’s and family services. This can be done through legislation to create legal structures through which this partnership can be supported. These structures will then require financial support to work efficiently in running the programs that will be started.
Finally, a proper team should be constituted run the programs efficiently and accountably. The team should be constituted of stakeholders from government agencies and the private sector. The team will coordinate the efforts of the government agencies and the private sector service providers. Their role will be to ensure the success of the community based initiatives and to be accountable for the finances allocated to them. This team will be free of the obstacles and bureaucracy that often trouble government agencies. This flexibility will promote better service delivery especially because of the support and collaboration in planning, operational management and capacity building.
Busey, E., E. (2001).Improving Services to Missouri’s Children and Reforming the
System (Parts A and B).
Dobel, J.P., Elmore, R., and Wemer, L. (2003).Memo Writing. University of Washington