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Collaboration is a complex intervention with multiple components. Public education and humans service professionals share a similar concern for social, mental, and academic problems confronting children and families. Both public schools and human services are being challenged to rethink and redesign their efforts to educate and focus on the climate and culture students and their families are faced with. As the educational landscape continues to change due to an increase in the academic and social-emotional needs of students and their families, and the inability for schools to handle the demands on their own, many public schools are moving towards community school models where human service organizations have satellite offices directly in schools. This form of collaboration is what is needed to effectively educate and support students and their families, ultimately improving outcomes for both. As more and more research support the ideology that students who have families that are involved in their education perform better in school, the need for inter-professional collaborations in education is becoming more important. In this paper, I will reflect on two evidence-based research articles that relate to professional collaboration. Both articles explore the roles of interorganizational, interagency, interprofessional, family-centered, and community collaborations in addressing students, their families and how schools have benefited from interprofessional collaborations. The peer-reviewed articles, Innovative Models of Collaboration to Serve Children, Youths, Families, and Communities (Anderson-Butcher, & Ashton, 2004) and Culturally competent collaboration: School Counselor Collaboration with African American Families and Communities (Moore-Thomas & Day-Vines, 2010) emphasize on building creative partnerships that extend beyond the four walls of any one school building, commitment, innovative strategies for developing wrap-around services, that require interprofessional leaders.
The first step in developing a culture of collaboration between district staff, families and humans service professionals is to develop a collaborative work frame that, includes adopting an improvement process, building a strong system of teams and making time for collaborative work. Each district team should specialize in goals or tasks that work towards the common goal of school improvement. Examples of district teams are instructional leadership teams, community engagement teams, committees on special education, behavior intervention teams, grade level teams, safety teams, humans service professionals, behavioral health, Department of Social Services, and Title I Services. To have a collaborative culture of sharing and analyzing pertinent district information, district staff must schedule time for collaborative sessions among the teams. Such work sessions should be systemically worked into the district calendar to promote continuity. Designated days such as superintendence conference days is a great time for district team collaboration with human service professionals. The goal of building a district culture of collaboration is grounded in the principle of shared responsibility among all stakeholders. Each team member should feel equally important to the other members. For examples, parents are as important as teachers, teachers are as important as principals and principals are as important as district administrators. Because each member is equally important, district decisions should be made collectively and collaboratively.
Family and community involvement play a critical role in the success of schools and students. Research suggests it is not enough for families to be involved just for the sake of being involved, many need additional assistance. Human service professionals should provide families and school staff with meaningful goal-driven ways to be involved. Goal-linked partnerships require teachers to ensure that involvement activities contribute to student achievement and positive attitudes about school”. When school district leaders along with school leadership teams are deriving goal-driven ways for parent and community involvement they should not only take into consideration the district goals but should include the community’s interest and needs. This will promote parent and community involvement that is reciprocal in nature. Parents will feel just as comfortable initiating goal-linked initiatives as school leadership teams. It is imperative to understand that interprofessional professional (both in school and out of school) provide meaningful, engaging, goal-driven ways that families can work along with human service professionals to plan, conduct, evaluate and continually improve goal linked partnerships that engage families in a productive way”.
Human service professionals have the dual task of understanding the state and federal policies, laws and regulations that affect school districts and the external factors that significantly impact the learning environment, such as, poverty, educational disadvantages and limited resources. By understanding these dependent variables, humans service professional become strong advocates for students and families and in return facilitate high-quality school improvement efforts working collectively with all team members. To effectively advocate for students and families, school district leaders must first develop partnerships with them. “Well executed partnerships go hand in hand with school improvement whether prompted by their own desire to create a better school or in the process of effectively implementing state education reform efforts and federal programs”. It is difficult for high needs districts to fulfil state and federal requirements while building strong community partnerships due to limited resources. Because of this dilemma, high needs districts tend to be more reliant on state and federal funding to implement state and federal requirements and build strong community partnerships.
In conclusion, it is essential for human service professionals to advocate for students and families by working collaboratively to address the challenges students face, to develop ways to provide necessary services with limited funding and to build a school climate that is inclusive to family and community members. Students face serious social problems such as teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, behavior disorders, hunger, physical and mental illness, and family violence. The humans service professional, an expert can assist schools to pull together educators and staff to better address the needs of students. These efforts are a critical part of the school reform and will require continued commitment of both schools and human service professionals to develop service delivery systems that are both mutually beneficial and effective in meeting the needs of the school’s most important clients, the student. Interprofessional collaborations seek to address the cracks between agencies and schools when students fall through cracks and decrease fragmentation by establishing a linkage of resources, like partnerships that will broader human services delivery of social and additional services.
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