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Norfolk Department of Human Services and Its Goals Essay

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Updated: Aug 19th, 2020

Historical Development and Purpose

Norfolk Department of Human Services (NDHS) is an agency comprised of several departments under the collective goal of providing support to the local community and help citizens in achieving sustainability and self-reliance. The purpose of the agency is best described through its mission, which lists the improvement of the lives of children and adults on individual and community scale and the generalized aim of enhancing the well-being of the local residents (Norfolk Department of Human Services [NDHS], 2012).

The ultimate goal of the agency is the emergence of self-supporting and productive individuals who live in a healthy community capable of self-support and favorable to its residents. The development of the agency is an ongoing process since it is constantly transforming to include new sections and target new goals, so no exact date can be pinpointed.

However, it is closely connected to the emerging trends in the city development process, so it can be said that development occurs locally and is tied to the emerging community issues and goals. Currently, the department provides a range of services such as support to children at risk and their families via Children’s Services Act program, adult services such as foster care, support to victims of suspected neglect and abuse, assistance with nutrition, nursing care, and medical needs (NDHS, 2012).

Besides, family members who require child care assistance, as well as homeless families, may seek support from designated support teams, and a separate program exists which is responsible for the readiness of children to kindergarten. Finally, several programs target issues such as prisoner re-entry, support of juvenile justice, and assistance in applying for the public benefits program. Since the agency is multifaceted and constantly evolves, recent years saw the addition of several initiatives corresponding to respective changes in purpose.

For instance, the focus on a family-centered model initiated the organization of the temporary assistance for needy families program covering the purpose of creating a family-driven child development and preventing undesirable outcomes such as wedlock pregnancies and unemployment. Similarly, the Family Strengthening and Fatherhood Initiative indicate the shift of needs from a client-based perspective to the perception of a family as a social unit and an increase of family functioning through emotional and financial involvement (NDHS, 2013).

The agency’s services are related to other services provided by the local government, with the ones from the Norfolk Community Service Board (NCSB) being the most evident example. The NCSB provides services on crisis stabilization for individuals with mental health disorders, support for people suffering from mental illnesses, and a range of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, among others (Norfolk Community Services Board [NCSB], 2016).

Generally, the NCSB focuses on specific issues in the mental health of the community and resolves them through interventions, while the department of human services provides long-term support for maintaining a healthy community climate and seeks ways to add self-sustaining quality to the community well-being. However, as a result of similarity in goals, some of the services offered by NDHS duplicate those of NCSB. First, both agencies tackle homelessness.

Human Services employs Homeless Action and Response team which provides support for homeless families and individuals, while NCSB has a PATH Outreach program (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) which provides assistance for homeless individuals and organizes training sessions to educate the community about homelessness and mental disorders (NCSB, 2016). Road2Home is another NCSB initiative that focuses on chronically homeless individuals and duplicates services of the Human Services department. Another area where services are overlapping is NCSB’s outpatient services which list substance abuse consultancy as one of the covered areas.

Crisis intervention and stabilization efforts also list pregnant women as a group prioritized for intake, which creates a marginal overlap with the family-oriented approach of NDHS (NCSB, 2016). Such duplicity of services may lead to several adverse effects. First, it will create ambiguity and confusion for those seeking assistance, which is especially undesirable for individuals with mental disorders and the homeless, who will likely be less familiar with specificities of administrative proceedings. Second, it will introduce uncertainty to responsibilities distribution across agencies, which will create organizational barriers. Third, it may create the possibility of exploiting the system (e.g. opting in for financial support in multiple programs).

Finally, it will introduce inefficiency in resource allocation where multiple organizations will compete for funds required for the same goal and eventually dilute the efficiency of efforts. Human Services Department is affiliated with several regional and statewide organizations including Norfolk Police, Domestic Relation Court, Community Services Board, Norfolk Public Schools, Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing, healthcare institutions, and multiple community-based non-profit organizations, among others (NDHS, 2012). These affiliations support the central premise of creating encompassing support for the local population and covering all possible areas of emerging issues. Also, these affiliations help to include the issues and challenges that can be either overlooked or misinterpreted by the agency.

Direct Services Provided by the Agency

Since the agency offers a variety of services via several departments, the eligibility criteria for each service vary. Some of the services, such as family consultancy and assistance in the case of abuse and neglect require a report and present no other criteria for application. Other services, such as Homeless Action and Response (HART) program, list a comprehensive list of criteria for specific procedures, such as filing a request for case reconsideration, e.g. writing a formal request with valid contact information and sending it to HART program manager (NDHS, 2016). Finally, certain services fall under legal requirements on the state or federal scale – for example, foster care and adoption department require from adoptive parents the results of an approved home study to become eligible for the adoption of a child under Virginia law (NDHS, 2016).

The demographics of the agency clientele are diverse It includes young families, parents seeking child adoption opportunities, homeless people of varying ages, former prisoners, children who became involved in the juvenile justice system, and victims of abuse. The clientele is not restricted to a specific gender and includes a wide age range. According to the latest report, the agency served 1,019 clients of adult service case management, 283 families at risk, organized family preservation classes for 85 families, ensured the adoption of 42 children from foster care, and unification of 27 children with their parents or relatives (NDHS, 2012). Besides, more than 4000 families received temporary assistance, more than 60 thousand residents received nutritional assistance, and almost 4 thousand children were subject to child care assistance (NDHS, 2012).

Since services are provided differently in each case, the process will be explained using the example of the foster care department. Foster parenting is provided by individuals who comply with the list of requirements, including a series of individual checks and a home and fire inspection. Once the requirements are fulfilled, the providers undergo the training necessary for becoming foster parents. Once these conditions are satisfied, foster parents can accept children who are neglected, abused, or abandoned. Foster families participate in information sessions organized by the department and communicate continuously to share experience and update the relevant knowledge base. In addition to extensive instructions presented online, clients can become aware of the agency as a result of the public information department which ensures coverage of offered services and reports the achievements of the department. Also, the printed handouts, brochures, and posters improve community awareness. Partner organizations also inform stakeholders of the services that might interest them.

Most of the services are offered to the community voluntarily and require commitment and engagement from the participants. The notable exception is the juvenile services department which requires detention by court order. For this client segment, legal regulations determine the measures for enforcing the court decision in the case of non-compliance, such as the design of the detention facilities to prevent juveniles from escaping and GPS tracking devices used for monitoring (NDHS, 2014). It should be noted that all rights of clients are maintained in accordance with the Constitution and Laws of the United States.

The majority of the information retrieved from the clients is sensitive, therefore it can only be accessed by the agency’s staff. The information can become publicly available for marketing purposes (e.g. annual reports of success) after permission is obtained from the involved stakeholders. Besides, the data is gathered and aggregated for statistical purposes and published online annually t ensure transparency and accountability of the agency. To evaluate the quality of services provided to the clients, the agency sets several quantifiable benchmarks for each category of its activities in the strategic plan. At due dates, the progress is assessed and compared to the goals, and in case the displayed results do not match, the causes of underperformance are investigated, and appropriate adjustments are applied.

Structure and Support of the Agency

The formal administrative structure of the governing body is headed by Stephen K. Hawks, who acts as a director of the organization, and Jan Callaghan, the program manager, who is responsible for education and public information (NDHS, 2013). To coordinate the functions of multiple departments, a strategic plan committee is formed from the representatives of different services.

Committee members. The list of members with respective departments.
Figure 1. Committee members. The list of members with respective departments.

All policy decisions are made via strategic planning by the committee members. It begins with a SWOT analysis allowing to estimate the possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats pertinent to the organization and realistically assess the possibilities to serve the community of Norfolk. Once this assessment is complete, the committee determines the goals that would be consistent with the areas identified during the SWOT analysis and comply with the vision and mission of the agency.

Also, the goals need to be consistent with the standards of performance set by the Virginia Department of Social Services (NDHS, 2013 NDHS). Next, a set of objectives is developed that is specific, measurable, practical, and has a determined time frame. Measures of the objectives are formulated, including inputs (required resources and staff), activities (actions required to utilize resources and produce results), outputs (amount and quality of the interventions), and outcomes (benefits delivered to the stakeholders as a result).

Since the agency is a complex interconnection of multiple organizations, line staff plays an important role in coordinating the efforts, ensuring communication, and breaking down generalized concepts into scalable and achievable practical parts. Since 2013, three policies were implemented using this procedure – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) incorporated a holistic approach in assisting families with employment opportunities, Family Strengthening and Fatherhood Initiative introduced an expansion of the activities to include fathers thereby ensuring the formation and maintenance of two-parent families, and the Information Technology policy streamlined the access to public information for agency employees as well as Norfolk citizens easily and comprehensively (NDHS, 2013).

The budget developed and approved by the Office of Budget and Strategic Planning in coordination with other Norfolk agencies to ensure the best possible distribution of resources. Approximately 30% of the budget comes from local sources (Norfolk General Fund) and the remainder is obtained from various state and federal sources (Norfolk Government, 2016). The budget for FY2016 was $46,476,185 (Norfolk Government, 2016).

Currently, the agency is facing several problems, with the most pressing being the necessity to provide high-quality services in the conditions of restrictive funding (“do less with more”). Another issue is the fact that the uncertain economic conditions create additional pressure on the department by impacting the population’s well-being. Finally, the financial instability decreases predictability and undermines the performance of the organization, further minimizing funding options.

Integration of Concepts from Previous Courses

The materials from previous courses greatly improved the understanding of the functioning of the agency in question. For instance, the knowledge of potential adverse effects of the duplicity of services allowed me to identify the potential difficulties faced by NDHS. The specific organizational structure provided insights into the evaluation of policies and strategies, and social work research helped to locate the data significant for evaluating the performance of the organization and differentiating it from the information relevant for marketing purposes.

References

Norfolk Community Services Board. (2016). . Web.

Norfolk Department of Human Services. (2012). . Web.

Norfolk Department of Human Services. (2013). . Web.

Norfolk Department of Human Services. (2014). . Web.

Norfolk Department of Human Services. (2016). . Web.

Norfolk Government. (2016). . Web.

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