Coordination and Integration of Welfare and Workforce Development Systems. Service Coordination Models and Strategies


Studies of state and local service coordination efforts have found that many diverse approaches have been taken in coordinating services. Several studies have developed "models" which allow one to characterize different coordination efforts. In this section, three general ways in which these linkages have been categorized in past studies are discussed. These models offer useful ways of thinking about the variety of state and local efforts to integrate the workforce and welfare systems.

System-oriented and service-oriented coordination. The General Accounting Office (GAO) categorized service coordination efforts as either "system-oriented" or "service-oriented" depending on their goals (GAO, 1992). System-oriented efforts have ambitious goals which are focused on reforming the delivery system. These types of efforts are intended to:

  1. develop new human service delivery systems or alter the way existing agencies are structured,
  2. create new services to fill gaps in available services or address unmet client needs, and
  3. reduce conflicts and inconsistencies among service programs to make it easier for clients to apply to and be accepted by programs.

To accomplish their goals, these efforts seek to change the way agencies plan and fund programs.

Service-oriented models have more modest goals and attempt to link clients to existing services and unite various service providers without altering program budgeting or funding processes, service agency responsibilities, or organizational structures. These efforts link clients with existing services through such methods as the colocation of providers and the use of case managers. In general, there have been limited attempts at system level reform  although the recent Workforce Investment Act is a good example of this type of effort. Most state and local initiatives to coordinate services fall into the service-oriented model.

Top-down and bottom-up integration. While the coordination of service delivery systems usually takes place at the local level, studies have shown that the initiative to coordinate may either be locally-developed ("bottom-up" coordination) or may be encouraged or imposed by federal or state officials ("top-down" coordination) (Trutko, et al. (1991); Bailis (1989)). With top-down integration, federal and state officials may promulgate "requirements" that local agencies coordinate the delivery of specific types of services, or offer advice or incentives to promote collaboration. Coordination is often mandated in legislation; at other times, requirements are contained in administrative communications ranging from personal initiatives of key officials, to joint policy statements, to agency regulations. For example, the new Workforce Investment Act promotes "top-down" coordination by requiring the establishment of state and local Workforce Investment Boards and the submission of state and local plans detailing how coordination will occur.

According to Trutko et al. (1991), "top-down" initiatives to promote coordination are sometimes influential in shaping the decisions made by local program administrators. They tend to command attention  and sometimes compliance  throughout the covered jurisdiction. But they may not lead to noticeable changes because local level officials resist (or simply ignore) the pressures to coordinate as they try to maintain the status quo. Thus, "top-down" efforts to promote coordination can be helpful in bringing attention to the issue, but they do not guarantee that anything will happen.

In contrast, "bottom-up" coordination arises from the initiative of one more local program administrators without reference to particular federal or state initiatives or requirements. The initial idea to coordinate service delivery may come from local elected officials or local program administrators as a way to facilitate obtaining services for their clients, sharing costs, or improving administrative efficiency. The presence of strong local advocates for coordination in situations like these can be a major factor in initiating and maintaining a coordinated relationship. However, those at the federal or state level cannot rely upon local initiatives such as these for efforts they hope will be implemented throughout their jurisdictions, and they cannot expect "bottom-up" initiatives to show any consistent pattern or model.

Typology of Service Coordination Initiatives. A study by Holcomb et al. (1993) of one-stop service integration found considerable variation across a number of dimensions, including the scope of the service coordination. To illustrate the various dimensions of service integration, this study developed a typology for viewing coordination based on the programs and agencies involved, the service or activities that are coordinated (from the user's perspective), and the target group.

  1. Agencies and Program Involved. At the state and local level, there are a variety of programs and agencies that can be involved including the JTPA programs, the employment service, cash assistance programs, secondary and post-secondary academic education, vocational education, economic development, and vocational rehabilitation. Depending on the agency, there can be a single or a range of programs within each agency included in the coordination initiative.
  2. Services and Activities Involved. There are also a wide range of services or activities around which coordinated or integrated service delivery may occur. This includes activities involving client services such as intake and eligibility determination, assessment and case management, and delivery of employment and training services. In addition, coordination can occur around activities involving agency operations such as planning, training and information exchange, integrated MIS systems, and collocation of facilities.
  3. Target Population. Coordination can involve different populations of constituents including all job seekers, disadvantaged workers, dislocated workers, UI claimants, welfare recipients, youth, homeless, and ex-offenders.