Policy & Practice | Winter 2023

Policy & Practice | Winter 2023

The Magazine of the American Public Human Services Association Winter 2023

Community-Led Solutions





Vol. 81, No. 4 Winter 2023




Shifting the Paradigm Together Going from Self-Care to Community Care

Forging Partnerships of the Future Reimagining a New Leadership Framework Centered in People and Community



Data, Tech, and Equity Connect How Community Engagement Bolsters Data-Informed, Tech-Enabled Nutrition Access

Bringing Public and Private Partners Together to Prevent Homelessness Los Angeles County Center for Strategic Partnerships


3 President’s Memo

8 APHSAViewpoint

32 Research Corner

Humans Helping Humans: A Bright Future for Human Services

SNAP E&T: Meeting Unique Needs

Assessing Disadvantage: Trends in Alternative Poverty Measures in Montana

26 Technology Speaks

5 Legislative Update

Advancing Government Services with Responsible Generative AI

34 Association News

TANF Status Quo Changes for Child Welfare: How Should States Navigate this New Landscape?

APHSA Awards Notable Members and Partners at 2023 Conferences

30 Technology Speaks

Enhancing Kinship Care Placements: Challenges, Success Factors, and Technological Solutions

6 From Our Partners

40 Staff Spotlight

Closing the Gap in Integrated Eligibility: How Kansas’ Authentic Engagement with Communities Propelled System-Level Change

Erica Mitchell, Budget Analyst Delina Henok, Conference and Events Coordinator


Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

Strategic Industry Partners

APHSA Executive Governing Board

Chair Dannette R. Smith, Former CEO, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Vice Chair Rodney Adams, Former Director, Mecklenburg County (NC) Department of Community Resources Immediate Past Chair David A. Hansell, Former Commissioner, New York City Administration for Children’s Services Treasurer Kathy Park, CEO, Evident Change Elected Director Derrik Anderson, Executive Director, Race Matters for Juvenile Justice Elected Director Vannessa L. Dorantes, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Children and Families

Elected Director Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services Elected Director


Sherron Rogers, Vice President and CFO, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Elected Director Terry J. Stigdon , Agency Head/Executive Director, Indiana Department of Child Services Elected Director Jennifer Sullivan , Senior Vice President for Strategic Operations, Atrium Health Elected Director Eboni Washington , Assistant Director, Clark County (NV) Juvenile Justice Services Local Council Representative Dan Makelky , Director, Douglas County (CO) Department of Human Services




Policy & Practice Winter 2023

president’s memo By Tracy Wareing Evans

Humans Helping Humans: A Bright Future for Human Services F or 13 years now, this space in Policy & Practice has been a conduit to you—leaders across the United States who are committed to advancing

the well-being of people through the human services sector. As I write this final column, I’m reflecting with awe and humility at my time at APHSA. It’s been an incredible journey and one that has taken me all over the nation— to nearly 100 communities in 41 states, and the opportunity to meet thousands of remarkable people. Every day of the journey I have been reminded of the deep courage and tenacity it takes to lead in this space given the many headwinds facing our communities and our sector. I am continuously inspired by the sheer fortitude of leaders who choose to always lean in, advancing the mission with grace and courage no matter how tough their challenges.

My inspiration to write a book about human services stems in large part from the opportunity to contribute to Policy & Practice over the years with more than 75 columns and articles appearing on these pages. It’s been a place for me to share insights from amazing leaders, tell the story of our collective work, and dream big about what we can accomplish together.

If you know me, you’ve likely heard me say that we need our human serving systems to work for people, not for people to have to work the system . And, as Layla Zaidane, CEO of the Future Caucus, noted on a recent podcast episode of Our Dream Deferred : “Our systems were built by people. And, so, to change a system, you have to [first] believe in people.” I believe in each of you—as leaders who are part of an evolving human services system, bound together by what you collectively aspire for people and communities, and strengthened by the many perspectives and vantage points each of you brings to the table. I encourage you to continue to dream big and leave you with some words I hope will inspire your continued lead ership and action in advancing the future of human services [see Tracy’s Vision , page 36].

Human Services that are Human Centered and Community Driven

Embedded with a Workforce Culture of Safety, Well-Being, and Belonging

Our Desired State for Human Services n Led by people with lived experience n Driven by a fierce commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging

Aligned with Other Systems to Foster Thriving Communities

See President’s Memo on page 36


Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

Vol. 81, No. 4


Policy & Practice™ (ISSN 1942-6828) is published four times a year by the American Public Human Services Association, 1300 N. 17th Street, Suite 340, Arlington, VA 22209. For subscription information, contact APHSA at (202) 682-0100 or visit the website at www.aphsa.org. Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. This magazine may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. The viewpoints expressed in contributors’ materials are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of APHSA. Postmaster: Send address changes to Policy & Practice 1300 N. 17th Street, Suite 340, Arlington, VA 22209

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Policy & Practice Winter 2023

legislative update By Marina Pascali

TANF Status Quo Changes for Child Welfare: How Should States Navigate this New Landscape?

E arlier this year, Congress passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, a bipartisan bill that paired raising the debt ceiling with the imple mentation of spending cuts and new work requirements on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The bill, which was signed into law shortly after its passage, is expected to reshape how states manage their TANF programs and to affect such items as the level of work requirements imposed and the number of families who will continue receiving benefits. This impact will be felt dif ferently across states, as each state government takes its own bespoke approach to TANF spending. Complicating the picture is recent research finding a strong correlation between increased restrictions on TANF spending and increased rates of children placed in foster care, which has child welfare implications for states as well. This article delves into some of the top-line findings of that research, the new TANF rules that went into effect this fall, and how one may potentially affect the other. Since the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act in 2005, states have been under greater pressure to reduce overall TANF caseloads by moving TANF recipients from assistance into full-time employment. For example, across 2012 to 2016, Kansas reduced the time limit on TANF benefits from 60 months down to 24. Although some states, like Minnesota, eased work requirements, more than two dozen have implemented tighter restrictions that more selectively limit access to TANF benefits.

Effect of TANF Cases on Child Welfare Outcomes As a recent study highlights, however, narrowing access to TANF benefits, while intended to transi tion more families into more robust employment situations, has also had ripple effects on child welfare outcomes. That study, led by Dr. Michelle Motoyama-Johnson 1 of the Ohio State University College of Social Work, unearthed some significant findings on the link between TANF and child welfare. The state TANF policy restrictions implemented between 2004 and 2016 correlated with a 13 percent reduction in caseloads, which in turn led to “statistically significant increases in neglect victims, total

case care placements, and foster care placements for reasons of neglect.” This included: n Significant increases in neglected

victims, with more than 44 additional neglect victims per 100,000 people.

n Significant increases of foster care placements, by 14 to 22 per 100,000 people. n In the two years following the imple mentation of TANF restrictions, foster care cases increased by as much as 20 percent. n Conversely, the study authors deter mined that, when "extrapolating these numbers to the 2015 U.S. child population of 73.7 million,” easing TANF restrictions could have

See Legislative Update on page 37

Illustration by Chris Campbell


Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

from our partners

By Molly Tierney and Julie Somberg

Closing the Gap in Integrated Eligibility: How Kansas’ Authentic Engagement with Communities Propelled System-Level Change

M uch of the work of administering human services relies on long term strategic agendas. Sometimes, along the journey, remarkable things happen in unplanned ways. This is largely a result of organizations that appoint curious, impassioned admin istrators and arm them with data. Leaders in Kansas and their efforts to maximize the use of food subsidies for families in their communities is a great example. Human services’ success starts with a leadership team that cares a lot about children who are at risk of going hungry. Jenalea Randall and Stacy Thowe are with the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), where, among other things, they are responsible for the distribu tion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—a food subsidy program for households with low incomes. Amanda Owsley is from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), where, among other things, she is responsible for the distribution of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC is a food subsidy program for women in child-bearing years and their children up to age 5. It’s a pre scription of sorts that includes healthy foods designed for these develop mental stages in life. In 2021, each was working tirelessly to maximize the utilization rate of these programs but knew there was more they could do. An unusual opportunity

The agencies found their way to Share Our Strength, a nonprofit working to solve problems of hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. There, they joined the “No Kid Hungry” campaign and were awarded funding needed to increase understanding and use of these critical family support programs. They anchored their work in data, focusing on the demographic profile of households enrolled in one, but not both, programs and built a data driven awareness campaign designed to pull them in. First, a data lake was developed to identify the individuals: those who qualified for SNAP and WIC but participated in only one program across seven priority counties. From

presented itself to compare person-spe cific data across both agencies. Upon analysis, a simple indicator leapt off the page with statistical clarity: a signifi cant number of citizens were eligible for both WIC and SNAP but were only receiving one benefit. They concluded two things quickly. First, closing the gap would have a significant impact on the households being served. Second, if these citizens were adequately informed about the programs, they would take advantage of them. They knew that the nature of how these programs were organized— divided into separate agencies with different applications and different points of distribution—often made it difficult for citizens to utilize both.

Photos courtesy of Accenture


Policy & Practice Winter 2023

“I'm a Kansan, born and raised. I want Kansans to be strong and have the resources that are available to them. And I just want our state to thrive.”


The “Feed Their Potential” campaign introduced many firsts for DCF, emphasizing the value of data, direct-to-citizen education campaigns, and multichannel mar keting. Although DCF and KDHE had collaborated on projects before, data sharing was a new element to their partnership. The ability to communi

to empower applicants with a nod to investing in their families’ future. Leveraging the demographic research, they used language, including Spanish versions of the campaign, that was relatable and images that were rep resentative of Kansans. To further ensure broad reach, they implemented a multichannel strategy that spread the

there, demographic research was conducted. This included interviews with local agency staff, leaders from community organizations, as well as program participants. Also, they expanded the reach of their research by including analyses of how the programs were talked about on social media. This gave them a holistic

cate directly to citizens was also a first, along with increasing program awareness via text and email. The merit and broad applications of this technology were evident to the agencies; the mod ernized data capability unlocked the opportunity to customize outreach campaign content and channel strategy based on the needs and prefer ences of the potential clients. Looking forward, the agencies want to continue to make the programs more accessible and digital. They seek to better equip workers, reach new and more

view of the expe rience end-users

were having around enrolling for benefits. They learned that many citizens did not know these programs existed. Others felt a negative stigma was attached to using the benefit and, therefore, did not pursue it. Equipped with data and insights, they designed the “Feed Their Potential” campaign. Its focus was to drive aware ness and educate citizens about WIC and SNAP via compel ling and informative

remote populations, streamline the benefit application processes, and are excited to explore prevention as the next frontier.

campaign across landing pages, email, text messaging, and social media. The campaign was launched in 2022, and its initial success was remarkable. Overall, it led to significant engage ment with more than 20,000 landing page visits and beat industry bench marks with 55 percent of recipients opening direct email (the standard is typically less than 20 percent).

content that speaks to them person ally with greater reach than ever before. With language such as: “The First Step to their Future” and “Here for YOU,” along with simple graphics outlining the application process, they challenged misconceptions, and des tigmatized and debunked myths about receiving food assistance and WIC. Even the campaign title was meant

Molly Tierney is a Managing Director at Accenture in Health and Public Service.

Julie Somberg is a Managing Director at Accenture in Public Service.

“Success was the education that was spread. The education for people who aren’t aware of these programs, and now are and know what’s available to them.”



Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

aphsa viewpoint

By Khristian Monterroso

SNAP E&T: Meeting Unique Needs

W hen engaging with families and individuals in human services, it is critical to understand that there may be unique circumstances and barriers that families and individuals face on their pathway to economic mobility. Families and individuals may have a variety of needs depending on their context, such as food assistance, tuition assistance, transportation, and child care assistance. Understanding and planning to effectively meet those needs requires the expertise of the local providers working directly with the people they serve and, most impor tantly, their direct input. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) serves as an important support to move SNAP participants forward on a path toward economic mobility. When providers tailor supports and services to the individual needs of the people they serve, SNAP E&T has the potential for producing a more equitable and responsive service delivery system. Paired with effective policy and practice through the lead ership of SNAP agencies, SNAP E&T programs can further reduce adminis trative burdens to meet clients where they are. A Strategy for SNAP E&T SNAP E&T is a federally funded program designed to assist eligible SNAP participants on their journey to economic mobility and career devel opment. It encompasses a package of services, including assessments, job search, education, supportive services, and case management. In an effort to remove barriers to participation, SNAP E&T also provides support services like transportation and child care

SNAP within their states—such as youth transitioning from care and returning citizens—and in partnership with communities, establish services designed to meet their unique needs.

assistance, aiming to help participants in obtaining and retaining employment. Third-party providers in SNAP E&T, such as community colleges and community-based organizations, have proven to be invaluable partners to state and local human services agencies for delivering not only E&T services, but also connecting clients to an array of supportive services to ulti mately help them gain and maintain employment. Through consistent and open conversation with third party providers about participants’ needs, state and local human services agencies can strive to co-produce a more equitable and responsive service delivery system. Moreover, through research and community input, SNAP agencies and providers can identify populations likely to be eligible for

Meeting Participants Needs, In Action

MAHUBE OTWA Community Action Partnerships Inc., a SNAP E&T provider located in Minnesota, provides a range of social services over a wide swath of counties across the state, including three Native American reservations. Through its whole-family approach to services, family coaches and clients work together to identify what services would be of greatest value to their specific situation and what a feasible

See SNAP E&T on page 38

Illustration by Chris Campbell


Policy & Practice Winter 2023

Shifting the Paradigm Together Going from Self-Care to Community Care

By Zahava “Zee” Zaidoff


ommunity... it’s the buzz word for action these days. We have community advocacy, community organizations, com

munity engagement, and so on. Advocates and organizations are working tirelessly to grow com munity engagement; to speak with, and not just about people. It’s a beautiful thing. Governments are starting to understand the need to speak directly with the people they serve. And changes are hap pening. They may be happening incrementally, but they are happening, and I am grateful .


Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

Community care is the seemingly tiny issue that I am going to discuss here. Why? Because it’s huge and it will save lives if we can figure out how to change the narrative.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Zahava “Zee” Zaidoff and I am a partner, mother, counselor, caregiver, trainer, writer, advocate, and recipient of Medicaid and SNAP. I am also neu rodivergent, live with PTSD, a survivor of a suicide attempt, and in recovery from addiction. I am also a member of APHSA’s Community Impact Council as part of the Coordinating SNAP and Nutrition Supports (CSNS) project, where I bring my lived expertise with SNAP benefits into the room. My job is to use my voice and to elevate the voices of others like me; those who are impacted by every huge, large, small, and miniscule decision that human services agencies make. But mostly, I am tenacious and I am loud. Sometimes I get loud about things that everyone is talking about, and sometimes I pick seemingly tiny issues and get loud about them, awakening others to the issues that they may not have thought about. That is my role. I recently joined a committee in my hometown called the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities. The committee hadn’t been active since 2020 and began again in June 2023. In my county we are good at video con ferencing, always have been. But the committee for people with disabilities was not available on Zoom or any video platform. So I joined the committee in September and I got loud about it. How can we have a committee for people with disabilities that is not accessible to people with disabilities? Well, that got fixed quickly. By the end of the meeting, it was decided that it would be available on Zoom forever. I recently spoke to the Working Families Caucus of our State House

about my lived experience with SNAP benefits. I took some of my allotted time to discuss how I, as a person who has had trauma around food insecu rity, don’t owe anyone my trauma. I don’t owe anyone my story. And although I spoke for free, I shouldn’t have had to. I made both friends and allies uncomfortable as I spoke about the states that have a system in place to pay those with lived expertise when they share their stories. You know what happened? We are now at the very beginning stages of creating an advisory board of lived experience experts in my state. Getting involved makes a difference. Speaking truth makes a difference. That being said, I am very cognizant of the fact that not everyone can. It is the privilege that I have in my life that allows me to even show up and fight to be part of the conversation. Community may be the word of the moment and the buzz word to make change happen, but somewhere, we decided that community should apply to everything except taking care of ourselves. That’s where we like to throw the phrase “self-care” around. The world decided somewhere that there was more pride and joy in the concept of “self-care” than in the concept of community care. Community care is the seemingly tiny issue that I am going to discuss here. Why? Because it’s huge and it will save lives if we can figure out how to change the narrative. (The stories and anecdotes from here on out will be mostly mine, but some will belong to friends and neighbors. These expe riences belong to millions of people across the country.) Here’s what I think those in the human services sector don’t always know. And it’s not your fault that you

don’t know this. Nobody tells you. So here it is. Here is the secret—you are a part of my community. My eligibility workers are integral parts of my community. I have food and medical care and cash to pay my phone bill because of you. I am in a situ ation in my life where self-care is not enough. I need my community, and that includes you. Not only are the eligibility workers part of my community, but the executives and decision makers are part of my community as well. I can only imagine that sitting in an office pouring over policy language and legalese makes you feel separate from me. It’s not your fault. You don’t see me. You don’t see my neighbors. You don’t see our kids and our dinners and our play time and our birthday celebrations. But that means that you also don’t see that my car is on its last legs and that I am down to my last box of mac ’n cheese. You don’t see that my child has new shoes, but mine have holes. You don't know that if I take any more Motrin, I will develop an ulcer, but lack of access or money or time off work makes seeing a doctor nearly impossible. You see what everyone else sees. A stressed-out parent or caregiver who isn’t engaging in self-care. I would have loved to write a feature about a program I am working on that brings systems together, with verified and documented statistics that can be replicated across the country. That really was my intention when I began writing. But then something happened. Yet another well-meaning friend started lecturing me about my lack of self-care. They told me I needed and deserved a massage. They even offered me a gift certificate. If one more person tells me that I deserve a massage and should really do that for myself, I might scream.

Zahava “Zee” Zaidoff is a Community Wellness Advocate in Hawaii County.


Policy & Practice Winter 2023

to say something to the effect of— wow, that sounds like a lot, and I am sorry you’re going through that. I don’t know how to help with much of that, but for the next 10 minutes, I am going to stay with you on this call while we get your SNAP paperwork sorted out, so together, we can take that off your plate. Do you have any idea what that would mean to me? That would mean that not only do I see you as a part of my community, but that you see me as a part of your community as well. And those words, that small action, shows me that you care. So the systemic change and the cross systems partnership that I am offering here is simple. I need you to stop seeing me as “other” and to start seeing me as part of your community. We are in this together. We both need help. We both need our communities to step in. We both need space to be human. This is the paradigm shift that I respectfully offer to you today. Self-care is an issue of privilege. Community care is how we all survive long enough to thrive.

Has society really evolved to a place where every human needs to pay someone to listen to them talk honestly about their day? Not everyone needs a social worker or a therapist on call for them 24/7. Sometimes we just need a human to hold space for us for 120 seconds. Giving me a gift certificate for a massage isn’t enough. It has never been enough, and it never will be. We all need friends to sit next to us while we fold laundry or boil water or cry or laugh at ridiculous memes. We all need people to call or text us out of the blue to ask how we are doing, or to just say, thinking of you today. We all need people to forgive us for not responding to a message in a timely manner and message us again. Why? Because I am not ghosting you, I just forgot to respond. Or didn’t have the bandwidth. We all need people to show up and offer to help before we are so far down the hole that we can’t find our way out. And yes, those of us who are your customers sometimes need someone

All of the well-meaning people reminding me to drink water have no idea if I have access to clean drinking water. Those who tell me to get more sleep don’t know that I can’t shut off my brain from all the worry. I wonder if those who tell me to go for a drive so I can have alone time are offering to feed and bathe my kids so I can do that. And this isn’t only real for us, your customers; this is real for many of you as well. I have spent most of my adult life working to help others. When I come home and need to talk about my day because it was rough, nobody lets me. My friends and family tell me to have boundaries and to leave work at work. I have no opportunity to process the stories I spent all day listening to. There is not even enough time to take a break while at work to vent to a coworker. There is no space and no time to be human. This leads to com passion fatigue (the fancy new term for burnout). This leads to loneliness and helplessness. It can be crushing. Under the guise of self-care, we are all left alone.

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Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

How Community Engagement Bolsters Data-Informed, Tech-Enabled Nutrition Access h & qu y onn Data, Tech, & Equity Connect , , i Data t t e c c c t e e

By Chloe Eberhardt, Morgan McKinney, and Jess Maneely

he Coordinating SNAP and Nutrition Supports (CSNS) grant program aims to align the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with other federal, state, and local nutrition supports to reduce hunger among children and families. The program awards states and counties with flexible dollars to implement community-informed approaches tailored to the unique needs of their agency and customers. An integral facet of this initiative is promoting equitable access to nutrition supports. This article highlights strategies the first cohort of CSNS site teams employed to advance community-driven, data-informed, and tech-enabled process innovations to improve access to SNAP and connected supports and deepen agency understanding of gaps in access. T

Their team used the data to create a Food Insecurity Map of Michigan 2 that collates publicly available data on poverty and food insecurity along side the availability of community resources and state food assistance program data. The goal of this map is to inform state priorities for reducing hunger and addressing disparities in food access for communities that are underserved by displaying gaps in SNAP enrollment by location to reveal where counties with high poverty rates lacked adequate emergency food dis tribution services. The Food Insecurity Map unveiled critical gaps across Michigan communities. Further com munity engagement will be needed in the future to understand the under lying root causes of these gaps. Hawai‘i , New Jersey , and New Mexico took strides to establish data-sharing systems, connecting SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). These data linkages were built to ensure that families enrolled in one program could be promptly alerted about their eligibility for other programs based on the information they already provided. These endeavors boosted enrollment and simplified access to SNAP and WIC by informing families about services available to them. Engaging People with Lived Expertise to Lead Community Navigation Community outreach and enroll ment played a pivotal role in several CSNS cohort 1 sites. Two sites in cohort 1 tested the introduction of community navigator roles to build bridges between community members, community-based organizations, and government agencies. Navigators themselves are community members who have had recent or current expe rience as human services program participants. This is one strategy to create a systematic, closed feedback loop and invite community to mean ingfully and authentically engage

focused on identifying and mitigating barriers faced by specific communities by building data-informed cross program alignment strategies to target disparities in food access, and engaging individuals with lived expertise navigating nutrition programs to build connections across community-based organizations, government agencies, and community members. The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Share Our Strength supported sites in embedding their equity work into technology and data-heavy initiatives by providing tools and technical assis tance to integrate equity throughout each project phase. The following examples demonstrate how equity can be interwoven with technology and data-focused projects to advance a holistic community-centric nutrition access model. Embedding Equity in Cross-Program Sharing and analyzing data was a core component of site teams’ cross program alignment strategies. Human services agencies have access to sub stantial volumes of data, yet often lack the resources and capacity for in-depth analysis to determine how to adapt their services based on the insights provided by that data. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) leveraged the CSNS opportunity to collaborate with the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions Center to collect and analyze data to gain a deeper understanding of gaps in access, enrollment, and services compared to population demographics. Alignment Strategies Michigan embarked on data collection and analysis, including demographic data, to gain deeper insights into food access experiences and gaps, informing their future priorities to address these gaps. Michigan , Mecklenburg , and Kansas also collaborated with community organizations as an integral part of their projects, fostering co-creation and co-ownership of project components.

The request for proposals for the first CSNS cohort (Kansas; Michigan; Mecklenburg County, NC; New Mexico; Hawai’i; and New Jersey) 1 underscored the disproportionate impact of hunger on communities of color—particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx com munities—and encouraged applicants to prioritize strategies that work toward more racially equitable nutri tion support programs. Through their initiatives, project teams at each site concentrated on harnessing data and technology to expand access to nutri tion benefits, dismantling inter- and intra-agency silos, fostering partner ships with community organizations, and engaging the lived expertise of families accessing nutrition support programs administered by government and community organizations. Some projects aimed to streamline access to nutrition supports broadly, while others

Chloe Eberhardt is the Senior Program Manager for Share Our Strength Center for Best Practices.

Morgan McKinney is a Project Associate for the Process Innovation team at APHSA.

Jess Maneely is the Assistant Director of Process Innovation at APHSA.


Policy & Practice Winter 2023

l Administers SNAP benefits to community l Leads CSNS initiative from beginning to end

l Engages community regularly as sa trusted source l Links community to government- and locally administered nutrition supports

SNAP Agency

Community Organizations

l Trained and employed by SNAP Agency and CBO to engage community l Engage community to glean feedback and close communication loops

l Informed about nutrition assistance programs by Community Navigators l Provide feedback to agency and CBO on real-time community needs

Community Navigators


flexibility in working outside of regular government hours. The Food Security Navigator team participated in community events, disseminating information about food resources through a food education referral form and conducting surveys to capture community needs and input. Over the course of their enrollment campaign, Mecklenburg navigators: n attended 370 events n engaged in24,413 interactions with community members n received 5,382 completed commu nity feedback surveys n made 529 referrals to food resources n saw 16,151 new individual enroll ments in SNAP A key strength of the CSNS program is its cohort model, which facilitates regular collaboration among project sites, enabling them to exchange ideas and learn from others’ experiences. This collaboration was particularly helpful for peer exchange on how to infuse equity into tech-centric projects. Kansas, for instance, drew inspiration from Mecklenburg’s work and sought to introduce a community navigator into their project to focus on Geary County, a high-priority area for the state. Mecklenburg and Kansas engaged individuals with lived expertise with food insecurity, poverty, and public benefits to inform the human-centered design of food security programs.

with government on their own terms, within their own spaces. Mecklenburg and Kansas project teams deepened partnerships with trusted community-based organiza tions to hire community navigators who brought their lived experience navigating public benefits systems to the project to connect community with government-administered nutri tion supports. The navigators offered comprehensive referrals to food resources, assistance with public benefit enrollment, and actively listened to com munity-identified needs and solutions to inform government agencies of real-time community needs (see chart, above). The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS) initiated a Food Security Navigator team dedicated to community outreach that solicited feedback from the community about their needs. Their efforts prioritized communities with the highest levels of need—as shown both in public poverty and hunger data as well as through analysis of cross-program enrollment data that revealed significant participa tion gaps—including neighborhoods in Charlotte with a high concentration of families with low incomes. To bring the Food Security Navigator team on board, Mecklenburg collabo rated with Loaves & Fishes/Friendship Trays, a trusted community food distri bution organization. This partnership allowed the county to prioritize lived expertise and language accessibility in hiring, establishing a navigator team with bilingual capabilities and

Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (DOH), established a data lake to match enrollment between SNAP and WIC and launched a targeted outreach campaign to reach eligible but unenrolled participants from each program. The addition of a Family Benefits Navigator with lived expertise participating in public benefits provided real-time feedback on benefits navigation and enhanced community outreach. Similar to Mecklenburg’s approach, Kansas DCF collaborated with a community-based organization, Delivering Change, to hire and house the Family Benefits Navigator position. Again, this partnership enabled flexibility in the hiring process to prioritize lived expertise, which was deemed crucial for this role to build trust with families based on a shared understanding of the challenges associated with navigating public benefit systems. The Family Benefits Navigator attended com munity events and provided SNAP and WIC referral and enrollment assistance. From August to December 2022, Kansas’ navigator: n informed 143 individuals about SNAP n assisted 66 people with the SNAP application n secured benefits for 25 applicants

See Nutrition Access on page 39


Winter 2023 Policy & Practice

Reimagining a New Leadership Framework Centered in People and Community By Trinka Landry-Bourne and Lofaine Bradford FORGINGPARTNERSHIPS OF THE FUTURE

eaders from across the nation’s public sector are giving focus and intentionality to transforming systems and service delivery by engaging and developing initiatives and programs with people and community. Conversations with community members and public-sector leaders speak to the significant value of authentic engagement with community when planning and making decisions for community-led solutions. In December 2022, the release of Partnering to Co-Create a New Leadership Framework for Human Services 1 spoke of a new milestone in our long-standing partnership to advance overall health and well-being across the social sector. The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current are moving full speed ahead in developing a new leadership framework of competencies needed to unlock the power of community-led solutions. L

accessibility and an excellent model for designing a pilot informed by the community continuously engaging individuals with lived experience. The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Family Voice Council was created to advocate for more equitable and accessible human services for all Coloradans. The council is made up of people who have been involved with or are currently accessing com munity services or programs. Council members gather to learn, provide input, and affect positive systems change. Members share their honest experiences and provide feedback as a guide for the future. The Family Voice Council created a tool called the Family Voice Compass that provides valuable resources to guide other orga nizations in implementing a family voice structure. The Family Voice Council is recognized as a national model and has an extensive alumni network of families with lived experi ence navigating human services. The Washington State Division of Child Support collaborated with AnthroTech, MEF Associates, Child Trends, the Department of Corrections, and parents with lived experience in the child support system on the Right Sized Order project to increase both frequency and amount of support payments collected for families. Parents and stakeholders engage through surveys, a Design Thinking Workshop, and one-on-one conversations. Through a series of virtual process improve ment workshops, parents, stakeholders, and staff work together to brainstorm ideas and prototype and test solutions to create a more user-friendly process. Key success was measured using direct community input to improve the order modification process. THEMES FROM COMMUNITY AND LEADERS The focus group discussions brought greater insight to the experi ences that hinder trust or empower individuals and families. Three core themes emerged: n Authentic engagement with community n Strong relationships that generate trust n Equity at the center

ABOUT THIS PARTNERSHIP APHSA and Social Current, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, represent and connect the entire human services ecosystem, including individuals with lived experience. Acknowledging the need for a new operating paradigm for public-sector leaders that puts people and community at the center of our work, we are committed to co-creating a cross-sector leadership framework that helps leaders advance equity, health, and well-being. This article highlights community centered engagement as an essential component of leadership within human services. Over the past year, APHSA and Social Current have collaborated with community members and public sector leaders from more than 25 states. With this collective input, the next generation of leadership compe tencies for human services leaders has begun to emerge. We are seeing a shift from traditional organization-centric competencies to ones that support a community-centric focus. LEADING WITH COMMUNITY CENTERED ENGAGEMENT Equity continually arose as a common theme in our conversations with human services leaders and

community members. When equity is not a priority, people within the community quickly take notice and feel disengaged and disempowered. This erodes trust in human services organizations. Effective community engagement enhances individual self confidence and provides a sense of ownership for a stronger commitment to work collectively to achieve goals. Fostering trust with the community through openness and transparency creates a pathway to meaningful col laborations, where systems can be rebuilt and improved. Creating spaces for inclusivity and belonging enables leaders to make more informed decisions and provides opportunities to continue learning about community needs. Meaningful connections are made through active listening, which allows leaders to address the root of problems, rather than only the symptoms. Leading with people and community means balancing power to ensure commu nity members are seen as essential stakeholders throughout a program’s lifecycle—in the planning, implemen tation, and evaluation. COMMUNITY-CENTERED ENGAGEMENT SHARED BY STATES APHSA and Social Current probed nationwide for impactful examples of community-centered engagement. Many states highlighted partnerships with community, working together to bring the most beneficial changes for individuals and families. Among the many examples, our story gath ering captured impactful work centered in people and community happening in California, Colorado, and Washington State. Santa Clara County in California formed a collaborative cross-sector partnership with private-sector stakeholders, community partners, and the Lived Experience Advisory Board to develop and implement a Customer Portal Pilot Program aimed at expanding access to homelessness records. The program was designed to increase choice and personal agency in the individual’s journey to permanent housing. This initiative is a notable example of expanding customer

Trinka Landry Bourne , DPA, is an Organizational Effectiveness (OE) Consultant for Leadership Development at APHSA.

Lofaine Bradford is the Learning Coordinator for the OE team at APHSA.

Policy & Practice Winter 2023 20

Human services professionals must be elevated as vital partners in determining community needs and solutions. Public-sector leaders must be open and vulnerable to the reality of narratives and experiences of the community interacting with the public sector. Data-informed practices provide context and honor specific unaddressed community needs. The entire human services ecosystem must work together through a shared vision to progress mindsets, practices, and systems. This means leaning more into people, their strengths, and talents for maximum impact. When programs, initiatives, and mandates are working for communities, do not change them, invest to make them better. WHAT WE LEARNED Collective findings suggest a need change in support of community. Leaders acknowledge the need for support and guidance in how best to engage and share power with commu nities. Education and training to build capacity were commonly expressed as being fundamental to successful authentic engagement with commu nity. Cultural belonging; emotional intelligence; and equity, diversity, inclu sion, and belonging were among the experience, while also being mindful not to treat these individuals as tokens. for a next generation leadership framework for public-sector and community-based leaders to shift the balance of power to drive sustainable Organizations are encouraged to leverage community voice and become intentional in hiring individuals with lived

commonly mentioned topics. Cultural belonging allows public agencies to meet individuals and families where they are, aligning the necessary support and guidance. Feeling as though one belongs is necessary in fostering trust, inviting others to share their feedback and opinion, taking part in decision making, and setting goals. A new power-sharing paradigm ensures mandates, programs, and initiatives are centered in community, putting power back in the hands of the community and people at the front lines of service. Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce that reflects the population served builds greater under standing, respect, and rapport when engaging the community. Organizations are encouraged to leverage community voice and become intentional in hiring individuals with lived experience, while also being mindful not to treat these individuals as tokens. MOVING FORWARD APHSA and Social Current remain committed to working with community and leaders to co-create a new narrative of service, providing national guidance and strategies for enactment throughout human services. Next-generation leader ship competencies are currently being socialized with community and public sector leaders to ensure practical and feasible behaviors that are sustainable across sectors. Thereafter, the leader ship framework will be enhanced, co-creating and designing leadership learnings, academies, and offerings throughout the nation. The focus and attention to this work is intended to establish new ways of thinking and planning for leaders from a more com passionate approach, with a people-first mindset. Valuing and honoring commu nity lived experiences will allow better understanding and help rebuild systems that address systemic barriers more centered in people and community. If you would like to continue in this dialogue, please contact Trinka Landry-Bourne at tlandry-bourne@ aphsa.org , Julia Mueller at jmueller@ aphsa.org , or Robena Spangler at rspangler@social-current.org .

Active listening frequently surfaced in community discussions as a barrier that prevents access to needed resources and support. Respondents described the feeling of not being heard, causing hesitancy in sharing opinions and feedback during interac tions within human services. Some even expressed the trauma their children and families encountered because they were not being heard. Discussions with public-sector leaders described active listening as asking and paying attention to community needs instead of making assumptions, participating in two-way information sharing, and being present to hear and learn about the community in how best to deliver critical services. Leaders in the public sector recognize the importance of their presence, follow-through, and consistency as essential components to build strong relationships and sustain trust with the community. Access to services was expressed as a challenge for individuals and families. Community members described feeling alone, not welcomed, and that they did not belong. Numerous occurrences of individuals and families experiencing a lack of empathy and understanding when trying to access services for such basic needs as food, shelter, and health care. Rather than feeling sup ported, individuals expressed feeling impugned and chastised when told what services they were eligible or ineligible to receive. These common experiences when seeking services from local agencies and jurisdictions speak to the urgency to amplify a com munity-centered approach. Community-centered engagement allows human services agencies to continue learning how best to meet community needs and how systems are working for or against the people. While this may seem simple, it can be difficult for public-sector leaders to execute. Large volumes of work leave little time for reflection on how policies are truly servicing the people or to consider new ways to approach community-centered work. Leaders recognize balancing well-being in the workplace as necessary to allow staff time, capacity, and support to better address and meet community needs.

Reference Note 1. See https://bit.ly/ShiftPow

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