The Commissioners of 12 City agencies and the Agenda for Children Tomorrow, a non-profit affiliate of the Mayor’s Office, today formally launched an initiative designed to break down the unintentional bureaucratic barriers that can impede access to crucial social services for those children, families and individuals who receive services from multiple City agencies.
City Commissioners spearheaded the “One City/One Community” three-year pilot program in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in response to a directive by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make efficient use of the City’s limited resources and improve service delivery and coordination for clients who being helped by more than one City agency.
Participating agencies include the Administration for Children’s Services, the Department for the Aging, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Homeless Services, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Correction, the Department of Probation, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Small Business Services, the Department of Youth and Community Development, the Human Resources Administration, and the New York City Housing Authority. The Agenda for Children Tomorrow is managing the program.
This innovative project seeks to assist clients who encounter service barriers by convening a meeting – called a case conference – with clients, agency representatives, case managers and a “One City/One Community” staff member to resolve their issues and to identify potentially conflicting policies that can impede the efforts of City agencies to help their clients. The program also encourages City agencies to look beyond their specific mandates to view clients’ needs holistically.
The project is being generously funded by United Way of New York City, The Sirus Fund, the Independence Community Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“United Way strongly supports City and other nonprofit service providers taking a collaborative, all-inclusive approach to providing services to clients,” said Lawrence
Mandell, chief executive officer of United Way of New York City. “We know that the
problems faced by vulnerable individuals and families are rooted in poverty and are multifaceted, requiring coordinated intervention. This is an enormous step in the right direction.”
Once conflicting policies are identified, the “One City/One Community” staff member reports them to a management team comprised of staff designated by the city Commissioners. The teams address those policies to a governance board that decides whether to adjust them based on the lessons learned from clients and the various agencies involved in their lives.
“If you don’t have decision-makers or individuals around the table who can engage in team problem-solving, things won’t change for community residents,” said Project Director Dale Joseph. “The exciting thing about this is that it has the potential to go far and be replicated citywide, so that the most vulnerable New Yorkers get the help they require without bureaucratic hold-ups.”
For example, a mother who lives in a New York City Housing Authority apartment, receives public assistance and is ready for her children to be returned from foster care, but may not be able to reunite with them because of conflicting ACS and HRA rules. ACS requires parents to attend training sessions before a child is returned to them, but parents receiving public assistance could be sanctioned if they miss work to attend those parenting sessions.
“This is exactly the type of situation that we want to avoid,” said ACS Commissioner Mattingly. “Our families deserve to have their issues resolved in a timely manner – without the bureaucratic and logistical headaches that can compromise the safety and well-being of children.”
HRA Commissioner Verna Eggleston said planning for the “One City/One Community” strategy began more than three years ago. “We are glad that this important is effort is the result.”
“The reality is that many households that face or experience homelessness are receiving services from our sister agencies, presenting a tremendous opportunity to bring our resources together in a more coordinated way to stabilize these households and help them succeed,” said Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Linda I. Gibbs.
Bedford-Stuyvesant was selected to host the pilot project because of the large number of programs available to local residents by the City as well as non-profit agencies. Based at the HRA-operated Bedford-Stuyvesant Multi-Service Center at 1958 Fulton Street, between Ralph and Howard avenues, the “One City/One Community” project expects to help more than 200 individuals and families each year through the use of case conferences. In addition to having involvement with multiple City agencies, clients must live in Bedford-Stuyvesant. An evaluation firm will test the pilot project’s effectiveness.