IN THE NEWS:
- Judge orders NYPD to Limit Trespass Stops. Read about it HERE. (Thanks to Roderick Jenkins, Program Officer, Children, Youth & Families, New York Community Trust, for sharing this article!)
- January 15, 2013, 2:45-5:50pm @ Philanthropy New York, 79 Fifth Ave., 4th floor, NYC: Reframing the Debate Over Gun Violence: Advocacy and Education Efforts Working with Partners in Media. Presenters: Maria Cuomo Cole, Filmmaker, Philanthropist, Chairman, HELP USA; Dan Gross, President, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Jackie Hilly, Executive Director, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Vince Stehle (Moderator), Executive Director, Media Impact Funders. Registration is required by January 15th. For more information and to register yourself and/or a colleague at your organization, please visit the EVENT PAGE HERE.
- January 31, 2013, 10am-12pm @ The Pinkerton Foundation, 610 Fifth Avenue, Suite 316, NYC: Briefing on the Close to Home Initiative Implementation With Deputy Commissioner Raye Barbieri of the Division of Youth and Family Development (ACS). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP.
Community Involvement, Leadership, & Coordination of Services: An Interview with Andrew White
After reading through Child Welfare Watch’s Winter 2012 report, I had the chance to ask Mr. White a few questions. Below, please find his comprehensive response and insight into building bridges between the worlds of philanthropy, government and communities. Also, if you haven’t had the chance to read it, please find the full Winter 2012/2013 Child Welfare Watch Report HERE.
MG: One of the themes that stuck out to me as I read through the report was the necessity of engaging local community activists, organizations and community members in addressing the needs of young men and women, specifically those on the spectrum of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Do you see a way in which the philanthropic community can play a role in catalyzing the necessary “bridge building”?
AW: First off, a key theme that arises in our reporting across the spectrum of neighborhood and family policy issues is the “social infrastructure” and its vulnerability. Government is getting into all kinds of very specialized contracts with nonprofits, whether for therapeutic family support, for example, or behavioral interventions for teens – – but the core community infrastructure of child care, youth development programs, after school programs, or even family workers to help people get thru the government bureaucracy to obtain emergency benefits, all of that is at risk. Most city agencies have now had at least four straight years of tightened spending and mid-year reductions. That’s worrisome. All of the innovative city efforts around community engagement, evidence-based services and keeping kids close to home even if they can’t live at home are a great advance. And yet if the fundamental social infrastructure isn’t stabilized and grown, these other services may have only a temporary benefit. So philanthropy must play a role in helping us understand and convey the value – – the “evidence” of value – – to be found in this larger community infrastructure. That means supporting applied policy work that can be useful to public officials and advocates and community leaders, and help them coalesce support around programs and services that are valuable. Communications and debate are part of this.
Closer to the real point of your question, though: There needs to be people whose jobs are dedicated to building those bridges between government agencies, nonprofits and community members. That means organizing, but around specific goals so that government can be part of the effort rather than the target. This is a different kind of organizing – – not the absolutely essential activist organizing that makes important changes possible, but rather organizing people to support implementation through collaboration. This may even make sense within the constraints of something like the ACS-sponsored community partnerships (see our previous edition of Child Welfare Watch, for more on that). These partnerships or other groups could sponsor regular neighborhood forums where community activists & residents can interact with DOP and ACS. These wouldn’t be controlled by the government agencies, but organized by local leaders who could bring community members in and give them access to ask questions. Given how open DOP is to community participation, I imagine these could inspire residents to start some good new projects with kids and families.
MG: Throughout the report the importance of creating a continuum of care for youth on the spectrum of juvenile justice and the child welfare systems is highlighted. Are there (for lack of a better phrase) road maps for youth and service providers that highlight the steps and journey a young man or woman can and should take? And following up on this question, do you see divisions between the organizations that serve youth? If they’re present, what are they, and how do they impede the progress and success of young men and women? Finally, is there something the philanthropic community could do to help forward better working relationships between service providers?
AW: There is no roadmap for how a young man or woman or provider should navigate these systems. In terms of the juvenile justice programs at ACS and the related programs at DOP, these are relatively new and quickly evolving. The ‘continuum’ is an organizing principle for the city – – a framework on which to build alternative programs for young people at different points on the risk spectrum and with all kinds of different needs and strengths. The challenge of summarizing the steps a young person could take is that so much is up to probation officers and judges. We created a visual map of the JJ system back in 2009 which at least described how the formal “justice” side of the system is supposed to function. Center for Urban Pedagogy has done a good one as well, more recently. But there are even more variables today. I think there would be great value in developing a clear, visually “map” that helps to explain the choices in the continuum – – not only to help young people and service providers, but also for those policymakers who will be influencing or leading these systems after 2013, under the next mayor.
As for divisions, the most obvious is between the big service providers & the neighborhood organizations and activists. It would be interesting to get feedback from a range of small local groups, like the ones
Ruben Austria works with, and those coordinating small adjustment programs. What kind of facilitation and training do they need to participate more meaningfully and more consistently in the city-run system?
MG: Finally, highlighted in “Recommendations and Solutions” is that the DOP must ensure that local, neighborhood-based organizations that help keep communities strong have access to and the support win city contracts. (p. 3) Returning to the idea of creating partnerships, do you see a role for the philanthropic community in building the connections between these small local neighborhood-based organizations and the large service agencies that have the experience of winning contracts and obtaining significant funding?
AW: It’s tough for small, community-based service organizations to survive, much less compete for city contracts. One way is for smaller organizations to get subcontracts from larger citywide or boro-wide groups that have enough familiarity with the neighborhood to develop trusting relationships with smaller organizations. Government and philanthropy can support the development of that kind of partnership. Again, it’s a matter of finding people who can do skillful organizing and coordination – – and paying them to do these things.
Funders can also help small organizations evaluate their impact and make the case to support what they are doing, if it is indeed worthwhile. Evidence matters to funders and government, and so does the ability to present that evidence clearly and with strength. This takes time and money, which most small organizations struggle to find. One important and immediate consideration is that DOP is currently working with several small groups to provide youth services in a very grassroots way. This needs to be documented and assessed now before the next administration comes into office.
The juvenile justice and child welfare sectors have both come a long, long way over the last decade. Your questions hit directly on key elements that have lagged behind much of the innovation: Community involvement, leadership and coordination of services, all at the very local level.
Andrew White is Director of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School and Lecturer at Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. He is a writer on social welfare, child and family services, New York City Politics and Government and the Political Dynamics of Urban Neighborhoods. The Center for New York City Affairs produces applied research on public policies that seek to support families, strengthen neighborhoods and reduce urban poverty. At Milano, White teaches graduate courses on politics, government, the news media, social change and criminal justice policy. He is the cofounder and editor of Child Welfare Watch and founder of the Center for an Urban Future. Previously, he was editor of City Limits magazine and executive director of City Limits Community Information Services (later City Futures, Inc.). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, the Daily News, El Diario/La Prensa, the American Prospect and elsewhere.