ERIC Identifier: ED356906
Publication Date: 1993-00-00
Author: Kunesh, Linda G. - Farley, Joanne
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Collaboration: The Prerequisite for School Readiness and
Success. ERIC Digest.
Each day in the U.S., hundreds of thousands of youngsters and their families
face a multitude of problems associated with poverty, inadequate housing, poor
health care and nutrition, difficulty in school, substance abuse, and
neighborhood violence. Research indicates that these problems are interrelated
at a variety of levels and in complex ways. Children and families at risk of one
problem are increasingly at risk for a number of other problems, so much so that
it often is difficult to distinguish between problem domains. To the extent that
the dynamics of individual and social problems are interrelated, it makes sense
that solutions to these problems must also be integrated and multidimensional.
PROBLEMS WITH THE CURRENT SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEM
and Blank (1991) discuss several critical flaws of the current service delivery
system. Most services are crisis-oriented. The social welfare system divides
problems of children and families into rigid and distinct categories that fail
to reflect the interrelated causes and solutions of the problems. There is a
lack of functional communication between public and private sector agencies.
Specialized agencies have difficulty crafting comprehensive solutions to complex
problems. And finally, services are insufficiently funded.
From the perspective of families, the services they need are often not
available or not easily accessed. Further, some services are unacceptable to
families who must use them because the services focus on family weaknesses and
problems rather than family strengths. Teachers, social workers, nurse
practitioners, and other "frontline workers" who deal directly with families
also fault the system. They are frustrated that youngsters come to school with
problems that interfere with learning, and they acknowledge they are
overburdened by high caseloads and constrained by strict rules that control who
they can work with, for how long, and what services they can offer.
Awareness of the problems of the service delivery systems is growing at the
state and national levels, as policymakers search for methods to encourage
coherent and comprehensive solutions to the problems of children and families.
Indeed, the National Task Force on School Readiness recently redefined SCHOOL
READINESS to more realistically reflect the complexity and interrelatedness of
forces that shape the development of young children. The National Task Force
recognizes that school readiness is more than academic knowledge and skills.
Readiness also requires that children reach and maintain certain levels of good
health, self-confidence, and social competence. Readiness is not determined
solely by the innate abilities and capacities of young children; rather, people
and environments help shape children's readiness. The task force acknowledges
that school readiness is not solely determined by the quality of early childhood
programs; it also depends on the expectations and capacities of elementary
schools. Finally, the task force emphasizes that the healthy development of
children in all areas is not solely the responsibility of parents, but should
include whole communities that have a stake in the healthy development of
children and families. Clearly, the National Task Force on School Readiness
accepts the fact that all sectors in a child's life--family, school, and
community--play important roles in determining whether the child will be
successful (National Task Force on School Readiness, 1991).
CHANGING DIRECTION TOWARD A "PROFAMILY SYSTEM"
growing recognition that everyone plays a part in the success (or failure) of
children and families, new efforts to change the delivery of educational and
human services have emerged. According to the School-Linked Integrated Services
Study Group, which is sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health
and Human Services, collaboration is required to fashion a new profamily
system--one that expands the capacity of helping institutions and
crisis-intervention and treatment services to work together. This system must
create new working relationships, operating assumptions, and high quality
services that support families and help them reach their potential. While
specifics of such a system will vary according to the needs of each community,
the availability of resources, and the stage of development, a profamily system
must always be:
1. COMPREHENSIVE. A variety of opportunities and services respond to the full
range of child and family needs.
2. PREVENTIVE. The bulk of resources are provided at the front end to prevent
problems, rather than at the back end for more costly crisis intervention and
3. FAMILY-CENTERED AND FAMILY-DRIVEN. The system meets the needs of whole
families, not just individuals, and assumes every family has strengths. Families
have a major voice in setting goals and deciding what services they need to meet
them. Service delivery features, such as hours and location, serve family needs,
rather than institutional preferences.
4. INTEGRATED. Separate services are connected by common intake, eligibility
determination, and individual family service planning, so that each family's
range of needs is addressed.
5. DEVELOPMENTAL. Assessments and plans are responsive to families' changing
6. FLEXIBLE. Frontline workers respond quickly to family needs, and waivers
are available to address or prevent emergencies.
7. SENSITIVE TO CULTURAL, GENDER, AND RACIAL CONCERNS. Respect for
differences is formalized in systemwide policy statements, carried out in staff
development activities, and reflected in the diversity of governing boards and
8. OUTCOMES-ORIENTED. Performance is measured by improved outcomes for
children and families, not by the number and kind of services delivered
(Melaville, Blank, and Asayesh, 1993).
CHARACTERISTICS OF EFFECTIVE INITIATIVES TO CHANGE SERVICE DELIVERY SYSTEMS
Throughout the country, in large cities and small rural
areas, many communities and counties have formed collaboratives and begun
initiatives to create more responsive services for children and families. While
none has fully implemented a community-wide profamily system, their combined
efforts suggest that effective service integration initiatives have several
characteristics in common. They are "school-linked," providing services and
programs for children and families from a school or group of schools. School
staff, along with personnel in other agencies, are involved in planning,
operating, and governing the initiatives. Effective initiatives are rooted in
the community and closely connected to state government, having the backing and
involvement of those who use their services, those who provide them, and those
who help pay for them. Effective initiatives experiment with designing and
delivering needed services tailored to target populations or neighborhoods
before expanding. They are data-driven, using comprehensive community profiles
that are developed to establish baseline indicators showing how well children
and families are faring, how well services are meeting family needs, and where
gaps in services exist. Effective initiatives are financially pragmatic, fully
using existing resources. External support is primarily used for planning and to
provide enough financial stability to ensure that pilot efforts point toward
systemwide policy changes.
GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE COLLABORATION
influence the success of interagency collaborations. No two collaboratives
progress in exactly the same way or in the same time frame. In the final
analysis, each interagency effort must proceed in a way that is consistent with
its unique circumstances and composition. Nevertheless, the literature on
collaboration offers some guidelines that have wide applicability:
1. Involve all key players so that collaborative decisions and activities
receive widespread support and recognition.
2. Ensure that the collaborative has leadership that is visionary, willing to
take risks, and facilitates change.
3. Establish a shared vision of how the collaborative should progress and of
the expected outcomes for children and families served by the collaborative
4. Build ownership at all levels. Commitment to change must be mobilized at
all organizational levels of member agencies and among community members
involved in the collaborative.
5. Establish communication and decisionmaking processes that recognize
disagreement among actors as a part of the process and establish ways to deal
with conflict constructively.
6. Institutionalize change by encouraging member agencies to include
collaborative goals in their institutional mandates and by earmarking funds for
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that change begins with
individuals, not institutions. Agency representatives must be allowed to take
time from routine responsibilities to meet and interact with each other so that
trust and respect on an individual level can be generated. It is through
personal interactions that the trusting relationships across agencies that
sustain the growing pains associated with systemic change are nurtured.
Clearly, the road to successful school readiness involves a new vision that
encompasses not only children and their environments, but the roles schools,
communities, and service agencies must play in the healthy development of
children and their families. The process of raising and educating healthy
children who are able to succeed in society requires new strategies for
communitywide commitment to addressing the needs of the whole child.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Boyer, E.L. READY TO LEARN: A MANDATE
FOR THE NATION. Princeton, NJ: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching, 1991. ED 344 663.
Bruner, C. THINKING COLLABORATIVELY: TEN QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO HELP POLICY
MAKERS IMPROVE CHILDREN'S SERVICES. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services
Consortium (c/o IEL, 1001 Connecticut Ave., NW, #310, Washington, DC 20036).
1991. ED 338 984.
Kagan, S.L. UNITED WE STAND: COLLABORATION FOR CHILD CARE AND EARLY EDUCATION
SERVICES. New York: Teachers College Press, 1991.
Melaville, A., Blank, M.J., and Asayesh, G. TOGETHER WE CAN: A GUIDE FOR CRAFTING A PROFAMILY SYSTEM OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES. Available from Superintendents of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. (Specify stock #065-000-00563-8). 1993.
Melaville, A., with Blank, M. WHAT IT TAKES: STRUCTURING INTERAGENCY PARTNERSHIPS TO CONNECT CHILDREN AND FAMILIES WITH COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES. Washington, DC: Education and Human Services Consortium (c/o IEL, 1001 Connecticut Ave., NW, #310, Washington, DC 20036), 1991. ED 330 748.
National Task Force on School Readiness. CARING COMMUNITIES: SUPPORTING YOUNG
CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL). MEETING CHILDREN'S
NEEDS AND INTEGRATING COMMUNITY SERVICES (videotapes and guidebooks) and "Every
Child is the Community's Child--Agency Collaboration for School Success." RURAL
AUDIO JOURNAL 1 (3). Available from NCREL, 1900 Spring Rd., Suite 300, Oak
Brook, IL 60521. 1992.
Sugarman, J.M. BUILDING LOCAL STRATEGIES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN AND THEIR
FAMILIES. Washington, DC: Center on Effective Services for Children, in press.
Sugarman, J.M. BUILDING EARLY CHILDHOOD SYSTEMS: A RESOURCE HANDBOOK.
Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1991.