House Council Acknowledges Herkimer County as One of Twelve Communities Making
Positive (Needle Moving) Change
The White House Council for Community Solutions has acknowledged
Herkimer County for its collaborative planning initiative that has improved the
lives of at-risk children and their families and made a positive impact on the community.
In December 2010, President Obama created the White
House Council for Community Solutions to demonstrate the power of engaging “all
citizens, all sectors working together” to improve the lives of youth. With
First Lady Michelle Obama as Honorary Chairperson, the council draws on a
diverse group of national leaders to connect communities with resources and
strategies that will continue to help them effect positive change. The Council
decided to look beyond individual programs showing success with limited
populations and instead examined communities that are solving problems together
in a way that improves results for the whole community.
“Communities face powerful challenges that require
powerful solutions. In a climate of increasingly constrained resources, those
solutions must help communities to achieve more with less. A new kind of
community collaborative—an approach that aspires to significant, community-wide
progress by enlisting all sectors to work together toward a common goal—offers
enormous promise to bring about broader, more lasting change across the
The White House Council for Community
Solutions, working with the Bridgespan Group, researched over 100 successful
community collaboratives across the country and identified twelve exemplary ones
which have achieved needle-moving change and are making further strides in
solving critical social issues.
The twelve exemplary communities include:
Atlanta, Ga. Milwaukee, Wis.
Boston, Ma. Nashville, Tenn.
Chicago, Ill. Orlando
Ohio/Northern Kentucky Philadelphia, Pa.
Herkimer County, NY San Joaquin
Memphis, Tenn. San Jose, Ca.
The Council’s research found, in addition to sharing
a commitment to needle-moving change, these collaboratives had the following core
elements that contributed to their success:
- Effective leadership and governance, with highly respected leaders
at the helm who are viewed as neutral, honest brokers and who attract
and retain a diverse group of large and small organizations to guide the
- Shared vision and agenda, in which leaders from government,
nonprofit, law enforcement and education develop measureable
community-wide goals and a clear roadmap to achieving them;
- Alignment of resources toward what works, where nonprofits,
government, philanthropy, and business work together to target efforts and
resources toward the most effective approaches and services;
- Dedicated staff capacity and appropriate structure to provide the
facilitation, data analyses, and administration needed for success;
- Sufficient funding and resources to maintain staff and invest in the
strategic priorities of the collaborative.
Herkimer County Initiative – Focused on Results
The Herkimer County
Integrated County Planning (ICP) initiative began in 1998 when Herkimer County
won a five-year grant from the New York State Office of Children and Family
Services (OCFS) to establish an integrated county level planning process that
improved outcomes for children and families and maximized resources. A Strategic Planning Coordinator was hired to
lead data collection efforts, facilitate meetings and keep the collaborative
running. Since 1998, the leaders of
government, health, mental health, human and social service delivery entities,
school officials, law enforcement and community representatives have come
together to discuss priority issues, improve coordination and collaboration,
reduce duplication of efforts and make more efficient use of funds.
Herkimer County’s ICP teams
actively review community level data to identify needs and develop service
priorities. Initially, ICP focused on
five risk factors: economic deprivation, family management, family conflict,
at-risk youth behaviors and the needs of the birth-to-age-five population. ICP researched best practices and developed
comprehensive plans to address service gaps.
Over time, Herkimer County added bullying and youth violence as
priorities in addition to its focus on youth in general.
One ICP priority issue
highlighted in the White House Council’s report was the effort to address rising
levels of at-risk youth placed in residential facilities, an intervention that
experts have shown to be costly and less effective. In response to this issue, Herkimer County
blended resources from the Department of Social Services, Probation, the Youth
Bureau and Mental Health to create the Family Support PINS (Persons in Need of
Supervision) program in 2003. This
program provides a combination of counseling, probation, preventive strategies
and family support services which allows youth to remain in their homes and
communities. Herkimer County
collaborated with a nonprofit agency, Family Services of the Mohawk Valley (now
the Center for Family Life and Recovery), to provide these services.
Herkimer County’s most recent
effort is the Return Home Early Project, which was established in 2008. Consistent with best child-welfare practices,
the project identifies children in residential facilities who would be better
served by intensive community-based services in their homes. The initiative includes Herkimer County’s
Department of Social Services, Kids Herkimer (a nonprofit providing support to
families with at-risk youth) and collaborates with placement facilities,
families, Family Court, school districts, and community partners. The intent is twofold: to provide services to children and families
in their homes and communities (in lieu of expensive residential facilities)
and to realize better results.
Herkimer County ICP’s
long-term commitment has paid off. The
total number of children in foster care fell from a high of 138 in May 2003 to
64 in December 2011, which is the lowest in-care number recorded in the past 20
years. In parallel, Herkimer County significantly reduced costly
juvenile placements in residential facilities through a series of coordinated
interventions such as Kids Herkimer and the Family Support PINS Diversion
Program, resulting in a savings of approximately two million dollars.
Continued Commitment to Goals
Bolstered by its early
successes, Herkimer County was able to keep the ICP initiative running after
the state grant ran out in 2003. Jim
Wallace, Herkimer County Administrator, remains actively involved in leading the
initiative and serves as ICP’s legislative liaison, which has helped to earn
the Herkimer County Legislature’s backing by reporting on the collaborative’s
significant outcomes and money saved.
While other New York State communities had to modify their efforts when
funding ran out in 2003, Herkimer County was able to push forward with the
support of the Herkimer County Legislature and have found scarce county
revenues to sustain Integrated County Planning to this day. ICP’s proven impact, broad-based legislative
support and lean management structure were instrumental in securing these
ongoing sources of funding. “This initiative would not be successful
without the ongoing support of the Herkimer County Legislature and the
involvement of dedicated individuals from across all sectors including government,
nonprofit agencies, law enforcement, schools districts and the community” Chairman
Vincent Bono stated.
One coming challenge for
Herkimer County is to further refine its data collection efforts. At the start, Herkimer County ICP set up an
extensive data collection effort with the help of Communities That Care, a
research-based system focused on risk factors that contribute to youth problem
behaviors, and with Herkimer County HealthNet, a rural health network funded by
the NYS Department of Health. As a result,
the collaborative has published the Herkimer County Risk Assessment Profile
every three years since 2000. The
Profile includes over 800 community data measures and is used to help identify
priority needs and develop service priorities.
But to add more rigor to its measurement, the team is now utilizing
funding allocated to the Herkimer County Youth Bureau by the NYS Office of
Children and Family Services to formalize its evaluation capabilities and
revisit its metrics.
Resources for Communities
The White House Council for
Community Solutions has made a variety of resources available as the result of
their research. The Community Collaboratives Toolbox has been developed to empower
communities to explore a new kind of long-term, cross-sector collaborative that
takes advantage of data-driven decision-making.
As communities must help more citizens with fewer resources, the kit
provides the case studies of the twelve effective collaborative efforts in
diverse communities as they tackle complex issues, from violence to low
graduation rates. The toolbox was
created by the Bridgespan Group in coordination with FSG (Foundation Strategy
Group) and is available for download on the White House Council’s Resources
page at www.serve.gov/council.
To view The White House Council's report on Herkimer County's Collaborative Effort prepared by The Bridgespan Group, click here.