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My top 10 list.

I first developed a fascination with our political process during the 1960 presidential election. Since that time, I have followed every major election with keen interest. There are two things that strike me about the recent midterm elections. First, the voters made a clear statement that they want change. Second, the compelling issues facing human services today were largely absent from the national political dialogue. Few candidates made human services a cornerstone of their campaign, yet poverty, child abuse, mental illness, homelessness, etc., afflict every political district in the country. This dynamic, coupled with the effect of a looming federal budget deficit on human services as evidenced by the inclusion of TANF Reauthorization in the Deficit Reduction Act, confirms for me the need to reassess our approach to policy and practice development.


I am now in my 37th year of public human service and during that time I have observed the field's tendency toward pessimism and negativity. In a profession that confronts human tragedy on a daily basis, it's both unfortunate and understandable. Our goals are so very high, our failures so visible, the challenges are great, we lack resources, the job is complex, and we conduct our business in the open. These factors lead to perhaps our greatest challenge: our public image. Our ultimate success relies on the public's confidence in our ability to manage our resources efficiently and effectively. We simply must tell our story in a manner that is more results-focused and makes an even stronger business case for adequate resources, program flexibility and administrative simplicity.

After considerable thought and in consultation with many of the nation's human service leaders, I would like to share a top 10 list of steps that we can take to improve our image, performance and outcomes for the people we serve. So, direct from the Home Office in Canyon Creek, Texas (and with apologies to Dave Letterman....)

10. Improve the coordination and integration of services. The current categorical system is confusing, inefficient and doesn't meet the multiple needs of clients.

9. Continue to grow community partnerships and volunteerism. It engages the community and adds to our overall capacity if deployed strategically.

8. Maximize Information Technology. Take advantage of powerful automation tools to ease the workload and get better data.

7. Encourage wellness and prevention strategies. We save 100 percent of the money that we don't have to spend.

6. Manage our resources prudently. We hold a significant public trust and are therefore obligated to manage our "compassionate business" wisely.

5. Establish consumerism and client choice. Clients should feel a sense of personal responsibility and be engaged in the solutions to their problems. There should be "nothing about me, without me."

4. Embrace Quality Control and Program Integrity. We are only as strong as our weakest link. Fraud, waste and abuse will drag us down.

3. Adopt a "Return on Investment" approach. We need to clearly state our business case, including the cost of not providing the service. This includes analytically promoting the notion that an adequately financed human service system is an investment in a stronger society and will pay off in terms of future cost avoidance.

2. Invest in our workforce. This is our strongest asset and it needs to be developed and protected. There is a huge cost associated with high staff turnover and lack of job retention. We need to make human services a viable career choice to attract the "best and the brightest."

1. Always maintain a client focus. We can never lose sight of why we are here in the first place.

So, that's my list and I'm sticking to it. I believe that if we approach this with a sense of enthusiasm, commitment, stewardship and partnership, we can make significant strides at improving our public image and advancing this noble profession that we call human services. APHSA is poised and ready to work with the new Congress in advancing our issues. Won't you please join us?
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Title Annotation:social services
Author:Friedman, Jerry W.
Publication:Policy & Practice
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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