Boston – Two reports released today by the Boston Foundation make the case that vulnerable clients of the state’s Office of Human Services can be better served by changes that also promise significant savings in government costs. The reports were released at an Understanding Boston Forum held at the Foundation as part of a series titled the Utility of Trouble, sponsored by the Foundation, which identifies ways to make government services more efficient, cutting costs at a time of diminished resources, while improving the services provided.
“The current economic climate impels us to closely examine how to manage our resources and look for changes that reduce costs,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “When we find potential savings that are aligned with better service, it forms a compelling case for reform.”
New research in a report titled Human Services in Massachusetts: Maximizing the Value of Our Human Services Dollars , by Michael Widmer, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, argues the case for reducing and streamlining the administrative structure of the state’s human services agencies. Cutting the number of area offices from the current 149 to 20 or 24, could generate a projected annual savings of between $12 million and $16 million. Savings accrue from reduced overhead, including the management costs associated with so many separate offices, as well as the ability to coordinate space needs in a more cost-effective manner.
A second recommendation, to close 10 antiquated institutions, would save an estimated $50 million per year. Instead of institutional placements in state facilities that are frequently old, in poor repair and physically inefficient, clients would be served in the communities where they live, near their families, the report says. In some cases, service can be provided with in-family placements in which clients are not removed from their own homes.
Also released at the forum were the findings of a white paper by Sana Fadel, Director of Public Policy at Rosie’s Place, titled Improving Child Outcomes During Economic Uncertainty. She presents national data on the positive impact of children who remain at home while their families receive state services, compared to children placed in foster care. The former group showed one-third the rate of juvenile delinquency; one-half the teen birth rate; longer employment and higher earnings; and less than half the rate of adult criminal justice involvement.
Fadel also serves as Coalition Chair of Strengthening Families Involved with DCF, a statewide advocacy coalition of 40 organizations promoting state policies and funding that support and strengthen families so that children can remain safely at home or be returned to homes they have been taken from.
In addition to data on the impact of being taken from their families and placed into foster care, Fadel reported on racial disparities among children taken into foster care. According to the Coalition, Black and Hispanic children are overrepresented in foster care, and Black children remain in care the longest and are least likely to be reunified with their families. Only 54 percent of Black children placed in foster care were successfully reunite with their families, compared to 70 percent of non-Black children.
The two reports were discussed by a panel moderated by Marylou Sudders, President of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and a former Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. Joining the panel were the Hon. Barbara L’Italien, Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Angelo McClain, Commissioner, Massachusetts Department of Children and Families; Christine Lewis Shane, Assistant Professor, Fitchburg State College; and Matthew Stone, Massachusetts Manager for Youth Villages.
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of $682 million. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Foundation and its donors made over $95 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of over $81 million. The Foundation is made up of some 900 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges. For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.