5 Ways Human Services May Look Different in 10 Years

Business ChartsToday’s human services agencies are under pressure to deliver high levels of service with fewer resources. Although the budget crunch has been challenging, it has brought out the best in today’s human services administrators. By harnessing technology and taking some tips from the private sector, human services agencies are creating new and innovative ways to get help to those who need it.
Many human services managers begin as social workers who choose to investigate their career options and use their one-on-one successes with clients to bring broader changes at the agency level. As a result, particularly in five primary areas, service delivery may look quite different a decade from now.

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Expanded Partnerships
Instead of looking at social services delivery as a government-only function, many human services managers are building a larger ecosystem that includes community action groups, private companies, not-for-profit agencies and non-governmental organizations. These partnerships provide added resources when state and local governments are strapped for cash, and they bring in external stakeholders to meet human services goals.

The Iowa Department of Human Services, for example, has created the Youth Dream Team program to help kids aging out of the foster system to make a smooth transition into adulthood. Young adults who ask to develop a “dream team” are connected to an approved facilitator, a peer advocate who has aged out of foster care and gone through the Dream Team process, team members of the young person’s choosing and a coach that coordinates meetings. Together, the team creates an action plan to help the young person meet transitional goals including finding housing, getting a job and enrolling in higher education. The Department of Human Services coordinates the meetings, but the team members are volunteers from the community and the foster care system.

Social Investing
In New York, a partnership between Merrill Lynch, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) and other stakeholders has created a $13.5 million social impact bond overseen by Social Finance, Inc. The funds will finance CEO programs that provide training and employment services to formerly incarcerated individuals in New York. Both the U.S. Department of Labor and the State of New York will make outcomes-based payments to investors, and investors will recoup their money if recidivism drops by 8 percent and if employment increases by 5 percent. If the program exceeds expectations, then investors will receive returns based on the savings realized by public sector agencies.

Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics can help human services agencies anticipate where to direct their resources. The Pennsylvania Bureau of Child Support Enforcement, for example, uses predictive analytics to score a non-custodial parent’s likelihood to pay child support based on age, employment status, residential stability and other factors. Instead of waiting for the parent to fall behind on payments before taking action, the bureau can connect the parent with job training or placement to prevent lapse of payments before they happen.

Learning From the Private Sector
In addition to partnering with the private sector to achieve human services aims, many human services agencies can learn from how the private sector operates. One major area of improvement could come from observing how the private sector recruits and trains new employees. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services undertook a major hiring initiative in 2011 focused on streamlining their hiring process, cutting time to hire, letting more agency managers get involved in hiring and increasing applicant satisfaction.

Serving the Whole Person
In Massachusetts, the state’s Housing and Shelter Alliance has developed the Home & Healthy for Good program (HHG) to address chronic homelessness. The program starts by finding homes for homeless people and then treats issues including mental illness, substance abuse and other disabilities, which keep the homeless from finding both housing and work. So far, the program has placed 678 chronically homeless people into housing with supportive services, reducing the government’s yearly cost per homeless individual from $33,582 to $24,118. HHG is one example of how meeting the needs of the whole person can provide both cost savings and better service delivery.