Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services Working with Nonprofits to Privatize Youth AssistanceBy Andy Sharpe |
The only thing as tragic as the abuse itself is a Department of Human Services (DHS) that has at times struggled to protect the lives and welfare of young Philadelphians.
This is what happened in 2006 when 14-year old Danieal Kelly’s life was abruptly cut short from starvation. Investigators later concluded that a dearth of DHS oversight contributed to Kelly’s passing. With this in mind, the city department has announced it will work with nonprofits to better combat child abuse by shifting responsibility away from itself.
DHS has decided to delegate youth case management into the eager arms of ten city nonprofits through its new Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC) program, according to Brian Clapier, Chief Information Officer for DHS. Two such organizations, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) and NorthEast Treatment Centers (NET), have been selected to manage child abuse cases in eastern North Philadelphia. APM and NET have already begun training to assume the duties. These nonprofits will be awarded contracts because of their “administrative readiness, […] the ability to implement the community based practice model, past performance,” and other attributes, said Clapier.
The other eight nonprofits, or Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs) as DHS likes to call them, will likely be selected some time in the next six months to a year, which is the period the city agency is designating for planning, said Frank Cervone, the executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates. The Support Center, which has been advocating for abused children since 1977, is one organization that will more than likely be awarded a contract, added Cervone. Once the planning period is over, he expects nonprofits to begin administrating “in-home services,” which include counseling, job training, and behavioral support. The private organizations will represent individual neighborhoods, and not act city-wide, pointed out Clapier.
The city has four goals that it hopes to accomplish with this outsourcing of youth care. They are “more children and youth maintained safely in their own homes and communities, more children and youth achieving timely permanence, a reduction in the use of congregate care, and improved child and family functioning,” said Clapier. He and Cervone agreed that child abuse should be treated more frequently on the neighborhood level. “DHS by themselves cannot protect every child,” said Cervone.
According to Clapier, DHS expects a four-year window before nonprofits can wield complete control over child welfare. City caseworkers will still be present to provide support, training, and monitoring for the private organizations. Furthermore, Human Services will still conduct in-take of new children, execute investigations, and provide assistance via the existing hotline.
The youth services reforms taking place in Philadelphia were inspired by policies in New York City, Florida, and elsewhere in the U.S. Both the Big Apple and Florida have relied on nonprofit organizations to handle many youth social work functions for years, which has proven popular in both locales. Florida’s initiative is known as “community-based care,” and privatizes every aspect of youth welfare services, excepting protective service investigations. Maine, Missouri, and Detroit and its surrounding county have all also instituted some form of privatized youth services.
Cervone is cautiously optimistic about the city’s privatization of youth services. He describes the process that DHS is currently going through as “highly participative and collaborative.” However, “we remain cautious about the locus of responsibility and accountability,” continued the executive director. In other words, Cervone is curious about who participating nonprofits will go to if there’s a problem. It’s worth noting that he holds more faith in how the city has run DHS in the past few years than many. In fact, Cervone is quick to point out that the number of children harmed under Human Services control has gone down. He says the next step for the Support Center is to begin spreading the word about the IOC program.blog comments powered by Disqus