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The third leg of APHSA's stool.

Many years ago, I was involved with a fledging state association dedicated to developing and implementing coordinated human service planning and service delivery strategies at the local level. The Pennsylvania Services Integration Consortium, or PSIC, had its roots as part of a federal grant to create an integrated human service system in the aftermath of the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. That storm devastated the northeastern part of the state and wiped out the records, offices and infrastructure of all of the health and human service agencies of Luzerne County. Starting with a clean slate, the United Services Agency was established to replace the categorical public human service system in that area with a totally integrated program. It was perhaps the most comprehensive and aggressive integrated human service experiment in the country at that time.

The PSIC was created to serve as a transfer agent to capture lessons learned from the integration project and inform other county agencies of best (or worst) practices. It was an exciting time that brought together a group of planners and administrators to think through critical elements of service coordination and integration. These included developing common terms and definitions, planning processes, case management, centralized intake, research, client outcome measurement, etc. As there were fewer than a dozen county human service directors among Pennsylvania's 67 counties at that time, we felt like pioneers paving the way for future integrated programs and human service departments. To this day, I still reference the white papers and manuals that we developed more than three decades ago, and the colleagues who dedicated themselves to those efforts remain among my closest personal and professional friends. That grass-roots effort ultimately led to the creation of the Pennsylvania Association of County Human Services Administrators, or PACHSA, a state association that represents Pennsylvania's counties in a manner similar to APHSA's work at the national level.

One of the critical tasks for the PSIC was identifying the appropriate credentials, skill sets, experience and core competencies that would contribute to the development of an effective human service director. As a relatively new industry deemed experimental by most and lacking professional standards and norms, it was an important undertaking. The research indicated that there was not a consistent academic or experiential pathway that would lead to one's entry as a human service CEO. Rather, it appeared that these appointments were made from three distinct routes:

1) Managerial--someone with a strong managerial background appointed to run human services like a business

2) Programmatic--usually considered the strongest categorical program administrator

3) Political--someone closely aligned with the vision of the appointing authority

This review also concluded that none of the routes alone was a predictor of success or failure. A strong program administrator lacking in political savvy or business sense was no more likely to succeed than a political expert lacking in program knowledge or the ability to balance a budget. Rather, like three legs of a stool, it was the combination of these factors that was deemed essential. As human service administrators, we needed to acknowledge the reality that we function in a political environment, operate a large business, and have an obligation to provide efficient and effective services. Falling short on any of these determinants of success could have dire consequences. This is true on a system as well as on an individual level. One of the great lessons for me as I have changed jobs throughout my career is to undertake a critical review of my own competencies and needs within this framework and appoint a team that would compensate for and complement areas that need strengthening. Experience has shown that cloning oneself will not lead to a balanced or effective organization.

I believe that this framework is also very relevant to associations. To be most effective, the combination of good management, effective practice and skillful politic; is necessary to both the internal workings of APHSA and the manner in which we serve our members. Consequently, with the creation of APHSA's Organizational Effectiveness Unit (leadership and management), affiliate structure (program and technical knowledge), and the revitalized national policy council (policy and politics), APHSA's structure and capacity are aligned within this framework.

It's my observation that among the three factors, political effectiveness has been the biggest challenge for health and human service leaders. Therefore, perhaps one of the most exciting and challenging recent APHSA products is the white paper aptly named "For Those We Serve" that is featured in this issue. Developing a consensus document in a bipartisan manner designed to influence the politics of Washington was no easy undertaking. It required strong leadership of the National Policy Council, many hours of meetings by the nation's CEOs and excellent staff work at APHSA. With this document and our larger transition strategy, I believe that the third leg of this stool has been strengthened and APHSA is sitting on a much more solid foundation to bring about change. I look forward to continuing this journey with you.


Editor's Note: "Jerry's Blog" is now a feature of APHSA's web site, Please go there to share your thoughts with Jerry.
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Title Annotation:director's memo; American Public Human Services Association
Author:Friedman, Jerry W.
Publication:Policy & Practice
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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