Interagency Services: Professional Perceptions of Service Deliviery to Special Needs Students
A summary of a thesis by Douglas Robertson

SSTA Research Centre Report #94-02: 36 pages, $11.

Abstract This thesis summary describes the perceptions of agency professionals relative to the delivery of services to special needs students in a sparsely populated educational region of Saskatchewan. This descriptive study serves to identify the perceived interagency difficulties in the delivery of services to special needs students. The study complements ongoing efforts to safeguard the quality and continuity of services to special needs students but is especially useful by virtue of its exploration of the extent and nature of agreement attributed to institutional and contextual problems in the delivery of services and in the development of an inventory of common solution themes provided by agency professionals.
Pupose of the Study
Today's Challenges with Yesterday's Service System
Common System Dysfunctions
Contextual Constraints on Service Delivery
The Saskatchewan Scene
New Approaches to Interagency Delivery of Services
New Ways of Organizing Complex Tasks
Restructuring School-based Delivery of Services
Research Methodology
Research Findings
Review of the Literature
Review of the Study Findings
Implications of the Study for Practice
Conclusions
References

Back to: Students - Diverse Needs


The SSTA Research Centre grants permission to reproduce up to three copies of each report for personal use. Each copy must acknowledge the author and the SSTA Research Centre as the source. A complete and authorized copy of each report is available from the SSTA Research Centre.
The opinions and recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author and may not be in agreement with SSTA officers or trustees, but are offered as being worthy of consideration by those responsible for making decisions.


ABSTRACT

In the present study, the author studies the perceptions of agency professionals relative to the delivery of services to special needs students in Region Six (Saskatchewan Education). The research problem is stated in two parts: To what extent is there agreement in professional perceptions of the specific problems encountered in the delivery of services to special needs students in Region Six? and, To what extent are there common themes in the solutions suggested by professionals employed by the various service agencies?

This descriptive study serves to identify the interagency difficulties in the delivery of services to special needs students. The study complements efforts to safeguard the quality and continuity of service to special needs students but is especially useful in exploring the nature of interagency services.

The service agencies considered provide developmental services to children through day-to-day intervention. Funding and deploying appropriate and effective services for special needs students involves complex administrative operations. The changing patchwork of public, private, federal, provincial, and local services have been pieced and repieced together over many years. These services appear to have become highly fragmented. As a result, there is, often, both an overlap and absence of services. Clearly, there are no simple solutions.

The study examines how the various processes of service delivery, identified in the literature, are perceived by professionals in Saskatchewan Education's Region Six. An analysis of the extent of agreement attributed to problems in the delivery of service and the development of an inventory of common themes of practice relevant to the future policy initiatives of agencies involved in the delivery of services to special needs students are among the outcomes of this study.

The subjects participating in the research were identified from personnel lists obtained from each service agency and included the following professionals: family and youth service workers; community living division workers; youth workers; therapeutic foster parents; child and youth services division workers; social workers; psychologists; public health nurses; audiologists; physiotherapists; nutritionists; chiropodists; school principals; directors of education; school guidance counselors; and, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) Noncommissioned Officers in Charge (NCO).

The themes of interagency services, human services, and organizational structure are woven throughout the literature and served to establish a problem framework for interagency delivery of service. The literature review identified major issues associated with service delivery to special needs students and facilitated the development of the research design and the development of a survey instrument.

There was agreement among agency professionals that the problems, as defined by the literature, do indeed exist in the delivery of services to special needs students. While there was agreement that the system requires restructuring to incorporate the principles of collaboration and joint action, there were significant differences among agencies concerning how these principles might be operationalized. New approaches for service delivery to special needs students will need to be defined at the community level, according to this study. Further, the study describes perceptions that suggest that communities benefit from interagency efforts that recognize developmental considerations: mutual dependence, integration, reorganization, and collaborative development. This study also identified factors that are important to consider in the development of interagency models for service delivery to special needs students.


Table of Contents


Purpose of Study

The provincial government in Saskatchewan has recently recognized that priority should be given to the reexamination of the processes and structures involved in the delivery of services, including those benefiting special needs students. In this paper, we report the findings of a descriptive and exploratory study that compared the perceptions of selected agency professionals in Saskatchewan with respect to administrative issues in the delivery of service to special needs students. After providing some background to interagency relations and the organizational and contextual challenges experienced in the interagency delivery of services to special needs students, we will describe the extent to which there was agreement, amongst agencies, concerning certain administrative problems and the extent to which common themes were found in the solutions suggested by the professionals from the various participating service agencies.

The study also identified the perceptions and possible solutions to problems related to the interagency delivery of services to special needs students. The information and analysis enunciate several key considerations that those involved with designing emerging approaches for interagency service delivery should incorporate into their deliberations. The study complements the continuing efforts of many jurisdictions who wish to secure the continuity and enhance the quality of service to special needs students. This study was limited to one of six educational regions in the province of Saskatchewan and included the key agency personnel of that region who were directly involved in the delivery of services to special needs students. As this study was designed to consider the administrative factors associated with interagency delivery of services, the study was delimited to interagency perceptions and solutions to problems and did not consider (except indirectly) single agency (inter professional) aspects of the delivery of services. The findings are further limited to the responses of particular professionals during the period February through March, 1993.


Table of Contents


Today's Challenges with Yesterday's Service Systems

As society approaches the end of one millennium and the beginning of another, the challenges associated with preparing children for an increasingly complicated world are formidable, to say the least. Among these challenges is an urgent concern related to children who require unique care and varied means of service delivery. The children we refer to as "special needs students", are purportedly straining the available human and financial resources in Saskatchewan and other jurisdictions (Amster, Boyer, & Brown 1990; Murray, 1990). New legislative standards and societal expectations concerning these special needs children have profoundly influenced the training required for in-school personnel, the kind of support necessary for parents and foster parents, and the development of unique attitudinal and educative settings to accommodate these students. It has been suggested that the current organizational systems that govern the delivery of services were designed to meet less severe demands and that these are no longer adequate. Amster and others (1990) suggest that our reliance on these post World War ll era systems has compromised the quality of services delivered to today's special needs students. These authors extend their observations to the organizational structures of education when they remark that:

The current model of school governance is derived from the management theory of the nineteenth century in which a centralized bureaucracy sought to control a uniform output at the individual or product level. Numerous layers of managers assert prerogatives, from the definition of jobs, to the regulation of the school site, to the implementation of curriculum. Teachers and principals at the school site were, and often still are, burdened with a baffling array of objectives that serve the bureaucracy's interest rather than to advance the needs of individual children. (p. 7)

The shortcomings of delivery systems designed after the bureaucratic model are reflected in the current service structure in Saskatchewan, with a population of less than one million, wherein students can be under the care of a multitude of service agencies, with each one justifying their service from their own organizational perspective. Murray (1990), author of a major study entitled Future Directions for Health Care in Saskatchewan, enunciates that the fragmentation of service responsibility among and within different government departments and agencies has its dysfunctions. He suggests that current organizational structures permits a redundancy in the services or, in some cases, a loss of service received by clients. This is due to the gray area that exists with respect to responsibility and governance assumptions of these agencies. The present bureaucratic structures, once designed to benefit clients, have created many situations that clearly do not serve the best interest of special needs students, other client groups nor society, in general.


Table of Contents


Common System Dysfunctions

In the report entitled What It Takes, Melaville and Blank (1991) explore reasons that similar systems are not working well. First, they suggest that, most service agencies are crisis-oriented and tend, therefore, to address problems that have already occurred rather than offering the necessary supports to prevent the difficulties from developing in the first place. Melaville and Blank (1991) say: "Prevention is cheaper and more effective than crisis intervention and remediation. Nonetheless, our society has committed few resources to . . . help . . . families until children are seriously harmed or strike out at others" (p. 7).

The second reason for these serious system failures, offered by Melaville and Blank (1991), is that "the current social welfare system divides the problems of children and families into rigid and distinct categories that fail to reflect their interrelated causes and solutions" (p. 7). Like Hensel (1990), Melaville and Blank (1991) have observed that special needs students may be serviced by many different agencies and programs, each having its own focus, funding, guidelines, and accountability requirements. This is especially illustrated in situations where a family needs services from health, education, child welfare, and, perhaps other services. These agencies often have separate and conflicting eligibility standards and an assortment of rules governing the expenditure of funds. These differences distract from the formation of an effective service plan to the members of the special need family (p. 7).

The lack of a clear communication among the various agencies is the third reason, suggested by Melaville and Blank (1991), for the failings of current service delivery systems. Differences in the professional discipline and agency orientations together with differing perceptions of the scope of their particular mandates sometimes results in professional and agency rivalry. This dysfunctional situation is exacerbated in periods when agencies are forced to compete for the same scarce resources (p. 7). It has been observed that some agencies have "typically concentrate[d] on what they are able to provide rather than on what their clients need" (p. 7). Agencies, so observed, have tended to overlook the more critical client problems and have been reluctant to incorporate the services of other agencies that may be able to provide more appropriate or complementary help to the client.

A fourth reason that current systems fail is related to "the inability of specialized agencies to easily craft comprehensive solutions to complex problems" (Melaville and Blank, 1991, p. 7). These authors suggest that the development of a comprehensive plan for a special needs student can be hampered in several ways. They say, for example, that the personnel in each agency may not have the expertise or resources to develop and implement comprehensive service plans. There is also a recurrent concern that programs lack the critical support services from other agencies required for a successful program. A complicating variable occurs when the internal governance and operational factors of other support service agencies present barriers to the development and implementation of a service plan for special need students because of differing agency organizational structures and policies.

Melaville and Blank (1991) and other critics of the status quo in special service delivery cite insufficient funding for services as a fundamental cause for some system's failure to deliver adequate and appropriate service. The lack of funding has led to a lack of prevention, support, and treatment services that would, in Melaville and Blank's (1991) words, "make a lasting difference for young people who must overcome multiple problems and years of neglect" (p. 8).


Table of Contents


Contextual Constraints on Service Delivery

Hensel (1990) documents a number of significant economic, cultural and social changes during the past 30 years. These changes, she says, have occurred so rapidly that government policies have not been able to keep up. Hensel suggests that, "[s]ocial structures are not in place to meet the needs of families today; some existing structures only serve to further undermine the family" (p. 3). Farrow (1991) observes that in the face of growing needs, current "services are increasing in cost but seem to have little impact on the problems they are designed to solve" (p. 268). Farrow (1991) reports that disclosures of child abuse and neglect are increasing rapidly and, despite regular increases in protective services staff, many governments still find themselves unable to provide more than minimal investigative services. Although the crisis in child welfare services is probably most severe, children's mental health services and juvenile-justice services are experiencing similar difficulties. Mental health agencies see an increasing number of children with severe emotional disturbances, yet their services remain the smallest part of most mental health programs. The juvenile-justice agencies commonly report finding it difficult to cope with the rising number of young offenders.

In light of the above trends, the role of the school in a changing society and the bureaucratic structures by which special need services operate are being brought into question. Is it the responsibility of the school to provide a full range of social services? Should schools be drug rehabilitation centers, restaurants, supermarkets, counseling centers, hospitals, and hostels? As well as providing academic opportunities, is the school responsible for providing recreation, shelter, and safe haven? How well, one might ask, can present school systems adapt to accommodate these changing demands?


Table of Contents


The Saskatchewan Scene

A report by the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (1992), identifies a number of trends that effect the delivery of service to special needs students. These include: changes in government spending, which has meant less money being spent on social services and education; an escalating divorce rates; a declining marriage rates; an increase in single-parent families; a greater incidence of teenage pregnancy; a greater emphasis on preventive health care; a greater incidence of two-income families; and a continuing concern for social problems, including family violence, drug and alcohol addiction, and poverty (p. 3).

In Saskatchewan, the current system of human services delivery may, with considerable oversimplification, be grouped into three major service sectors: education, health and social services. The publicly-funded education system provides instructional services to children in both public and separate schools. It also provides specialized services through an inter-school division administrative arrangements for specialized services known as "shared services." These arrangements employ professionals such as speech language pathologists, educational psychologists and counselors. The health sector provides nutrition, medical, and mental health services while the social services sector undertakes to deliver both traditional social services (such as child welfare and counseling) as well as income maintenance, housing, and training services. The province of Saskatchewan has begun a process of reexamining the organizational structures and these program delivery systems. This attention to reform is evidenced by initiatives and recommendations reflected in the Report of the Saskatchewan Management Review Commission (1992), Future Directions for Health Care in Saskatchewan (1990), School Finance and Governance Review: Final Report (1992), and the Saskatchewan Boundary Commission Report (1992). The Saskatchewan School Trustees Association has become involved in this process of review, as evidenced in their own reports, including: the Role of the School Symposium (1992) and the report entitled Building a Community for Learning: Integrated School-Based Services (1992). Other contributors have included: The League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents discussion paper Integrated School-based Services in Saskatchewan (1993); and, Saskatchewan Education's Children's First: Coordinating Community Action (1993).


Table of Contents


Increasing Demands on Schools

The challenges of providing supportive service programming for special needs students, combined with institutional and organizational complexities, is illustrated by the following example:

You may have a 14-year-old girl who has been a victim of child sexual abuse since the age of nine who runs away from home. That makes her a child in need of supervision. She may steal clothing from a local merchant. That makes her a delinquent. Because she has been abused, she may suffer from emotional disorders -- the jurisdiction of the . . . mental health. And because she's run away from home, she may be a charge of the welfare system. And, of course, she still needs to be educated. So here you have one child whose problems require the services of multiple agencies, sometimes even private agencies. Normally, the agencies themselves are not set up to address these multiple problems. (National School Boards Association, 1991, p. 9)

According to Fruchter (1987), there are increasing demands on service delivery agencies and, in particular, the school. These increased demands have caused schools to expand their role to meet the wide range of special needs students. This role-expansion has prompted some criticism. The primary, and most critical, argument holds that schools confound their attempts to address academic ineffectiveness by attempting to meet all their students' non-instructional needs. A counter argument, presented by Fruchter (1987), suggests that "schools have no choice, because effective teaching and learning is impossible when students' needs for adequate nutrition, health care and emotional support remain unattended" (p. 3). It has become a truism that a hungry belly has no appetite for learning.

The increasing demands for the special services has outpaced the ability of these providers to develop adequate systems and programming. This observation is aptly summarized by the Center for the Future of Children:

The historic tripartite human services delivery system with its dependence upon effective family functioning for utilization of needed services no longer meets the needs of an increasing number of children and families. Changed demographics, growing poverty, more people with multiple problems, and a rising demand for competence to survive or cope in society bring pressure for accommodation in the historic delivery system. (p. 43)

These increasing demands provide a catalyst for major change in current systems of service delivery and for the potential restructuring of structures and functions throughout North America. There are many factors that have brought the need to examine service delivery to special needs students to the political forefront. These factors include a heightened understanding of the complexities of present social and political dynamics; difficult economic conditions; increasing societal expectations; advances in technology; and an increase in demand for service.

The most serious problems associated with the structures of service delivery occur when a child who has multiple impairments needs multiple services and the designation of a lead agency is not immediately clear, according to the Future Directions For Health Care in Saskatchewan (1990) report. This report presents several important findings: service availability varies by geographic location within the province of Saskatchewan; rules for system access varies from agency to agency and region to region; client needs may be defined differently across jurisdictions; and eligibility criteria and policies which impact special needs students are frequently complex. When these factors are combined with the obvious need for parents and agencies to interact with other agencies, then the task of securing needed services can be seen as a formidable one indeed. The large number of service agencies and programs available for special needs children, both at a provincial level and in local jurisdictions, have made the case-specific appropriateness of these services confusing, both to other agencies and to those who seek services (Future Directions for Health Care in Saskatchewan, 1990). These administrative, educational and social concerns and challenges are important for those with personal and professional stakes in the interagency delivery of services as well as for those in positions of system stewardship, as policy makers and system engineers.


Table of Contents


New Approaches to Interagency Delivery of Service

The current economic crisis in health care in Saskatchewan has forced a rethinking of the structures and the processes involved in the interagency delivery of services (Murray, 1990). From extensive lists of recommendations, such as those in Future Directions For Health Care in Saskatchewan (1990), and from a social and political climate for change, it is become apparent that models for health care and other services will be altered. Descriptions of past, current, and future trends related to health care in Canada, clearly point to a movement aimed at developing new models for the interagency delivery of services. A report by the British Columbia Royal Commission (1990) on health care and costs, entitled Closer To Home, cites the Jericho Process: "Administrative walls within the Ministry of Health, among all ministries, health care institutions, and between all these groups and educational institutions, must be broken down in favor of an integrated health care system" (p. 7).

A combination of political, economic and social realities have created a strong desire to develop new models and structures for delivering health care and other services. In response to this desire, Craig (1988) summarized the elements of Friedman's recommendations for improving service delivery:

1. Multi-system, involving all available agencies in planning and working together on behalf of these youths;

2. Provided in the least restrictive setting possible;

3. Family-based, closely involving family members in the treatment process.

4. Carefully planned at the state and local levels, with the emphasis placed on each community's resources, needs, priorities, and weaknesses;

5. Studies reveal that the major factors in determining the long-term outcome for residential clients are not related to the type and severity of psychopathology but to the post-discharge resources available to the youth. Community-based systems of services are more effective, more cost-efficient and more humane;

6. Service delivery systems need to strike a better balance between prevention and early intervention programs and more expensive, restrictive residential services programs;

7. Accessible, timely and of sufficient intensity. Intensive outreach programs are often the most effective means of treatment and frequently help avert hospitalization; and

8. Oriented towards early intervention. Most experts agree that money spent today in education and good prevention programming saves in treatment costs later on. (p. 7)

Craig (1988) suggests that governmental bodies, foundations and other private sector institutions, together with mental health systems, are attempting to produce positive changes in the delivery of mental health services to children and youth. However, Craig (1988) recognizes that there is much to be done in the restructuring of services for special needs children. A consistent theme in the literature involves three strands of consideration: developing a continuum of services to address the changing and varied special needs of children and their families; coordinating and integrating the delivery system so that those children and families in need can easily access the system; and involving families in the treatment process and attempting to maintain children in their home (Bayer, 1985; Bruner, 1991; Pfeiffer, 1990). By these means, it is hoped that the needs of the individual special needs student, the involved family, and the concerns of society can be best and most effectively met and administered.


Table of Contents


New Ways of Organizing Complex Tasks

The challenges facing service delivery to special needs students are related to interagency administration and relations. Cummings (1990) suggests that a growing number of business and public organizations have sought new ways of organizing to respond to increasingly complex tasks, uncertain environments, and scarce resources. Cummings observes that many recent organizational innovations are aimed at "cooperative strategies for teaming up with other organizations to share information and resources and to mutually benefit from each other's competencies" (p. 205). Innovators believe that by sharing resources, information, and expertise, organizations can respond better to the complexity and uncertainty of today's environments. He refers to such relationships as "transorganizational systems" and defines these as:

[a] diversity of collaborative arrangements where single organizations join together for a common purpose. Such systems can be more or less permanent, and can involve a variety of purposes, such as sharing information, coordinating services and exchanges, undertaking complex projects, and solving common problems. (p. 206)

Cummings (1990) suggests that these systems represent mechanisms for allocating resources through cooperative arrangements among organizations. He clarifies this concept further by characterizing these systems as non-market, non hierarchical arrangements and offers that these arrangements have been variously termed: interorganizational systems; social action systems; action sets; interorganizational domains; network organizations; consortia; joint ventures; and business alliances (p. 206).

Cummings explains that the rapid rise of interorganizational systems is indicative of "their responsiveness to highly competitive and turbulent conditions facing many modern organizations" (p. 208). He also observes that rapid shifts in technological innovation, customer preferences, patterns of foreign competition, and global capital markets are placing severe pressures on organizations to become more efficient, flexible, and responsive to changing conditions. This desire for "transorganizational systems" may be rooted in the growing demands for streamlining government, reducing taxes, and offering better services to force public agencies to do more with fewer resources. Cummings' description of the evolution of interagency service delivery approaches, he describes three transorganizational appreciation's: interdependence versus autonomy; mutual adjustments versus hierarchical control; and collaboration versus competition. He summarizes the effect of these, as follows:

When taken together, the three transorganizational appreciation's form a coherent set of value and reality judgments about organizing. When executives appreciate interdependence, mutual adjustment, and collaboration among organizations, they are heavily oriented toward creating partnerships with other organizations. They actively seek collaborative solutions to problems, and engage in the networking and appropriate exchange necessary to get others to join with them. (p. 212)


Table of Contents


Restructuring School-based Delivery of Services

This desire for restructuring delivery of service models has also been expressed in the province of Saskatchewan, by the Minister's Advisory Committee on Integrated School-Based Services for Children and Families (1992), which has to outlined several principles that ought to characterize an integrated school-based delivery program:

1. Programs will be based on community identified needs and will be implemented through collaborative action at the school level;

2. Resources will be targeted towards identified needs where there are gaps, or where there is potential for the enhancement of existing services in areas of special needs, minority populations, and "at-risk" clientele;

3. Programs will be school-based unless a more appropriate delivery mechanism is identified by the community;

4. Programs will support the role of the family and its links to the school and the community;

5. Programs will support the work of school-based personnel; and

6. Initiatives will focus on the needs of all children and will include preventive measures. (p. 3)

This advisory committee has a clear mandate to encourage, support, and assist communities to develop integrated services projects by facilitating "necessary policy and structural adjustments at the provincial level needed to achieve effective delivery of integrated services at a local level" (p. 4). It is through these initial steps that a new structures for interagency service delivery will be facilitated. However, it is an immense task to begin to reform the means of delivering services to children through multiple agencies. As indicated, this task is made more challenging by the stark economic realities in the province of Saskatchewan and by the commendable but perhaps unrealistic desire for "quick fix" solutions. There are, of course, many innovative and creative ideas that address these challenges, including: school-based management, technological innovation, and the partnerships between and among schools, business, and social service agencies but these notions each have their inertia points.

It is clear from the literature that there are major structural difficulties present in the way society has organized the delivery of services for special needs students. Indeed, on a grand scale, there are problems inherent in the way both public and private agencies and institutions interrelate and deliver their services. The authors of Securing Our Future (1988) speak of society and institutions developing a new vision and advocate the following:

[There is] a new vision of what I would call a child-resource policy . . . There has to be a forceful statement . . . that we have to go a new direction, that we have to put agencies -- public and private -- together in ways that we have never seen before. Jamming all the programs together in the same agencies -- super agencies of the state government -- isn't the answer. (p. 13)

Clearly, society's public and private institutions have not been able to sustain services with the pace of change demanded by the new social, political, and economic realities. A number of authors question the efficiency of merely adding services without careful consideration of the structure as a whole. As Amster and others (1990) have suggested, "A plethora of good ideas gluts the market for innovation. But the current challenge is to restructure the system as a whole rather than to tinker with single issues" (p. 4). The research reported in the remainder of this paper, was designed to compare the perceptions among professionals, associated with various service agencies, with respect to these the dysfunctions of the current delivery systems and the development of emerging Saskatchewan approaches for the delivery of services to special needs students.

The two major interagency dysfunctions identified, in the literature, are institutional and contextual in nature. The institutional problems tend to be related to the bureaucratic workings within and between service agencies. These are further clarified according to two strands of factors, namely: agency assumption of responsibility and the clarity and compatibility of organizational structures. The four elements of areas and assignment of responsibility, collaboration, governance, operational factors, and joint action are elaborations of these institutional factors. The second set of problems tend to be contextual in nature. These problems relate to the prevalence of economic, political, and social factors; social conditions; service eligibility; geographic proximity; advances in technology; and the perception that needs for service are accelerating. This study also examined professional perceptions and solutions relative to service delivery models.


Table of Contents


Research Methodology

A survey was sent to 280 professionals employed by six service agencies in one of six Saskatchewan educational regions. These agencies included: Band controlled schools;1 Department of mental health; Department of education; Department of social services; Department of public health; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The following professionals were included: in-school administrators, central office administrators, counselors, psychologists, social workers, department directors of government agencies, agency management, therapeutic foster parents, and members of R.C.M.P. detachments. Except for school guidance counselors and school administrators, teachers were not included as participants in this study because of the study's administrative emphasis. A survey was designed to provide demographic information and ratings of the six administrative factors for interagency service delivery items, on a six point Likert-type scale. Participant responses were analyzed by calculating frequencies, means, and standard deviations. This first section of the survey included 136 response items. Data were further analyzed using a one way analysis of variance to compare responses between agencies by the six categories of factors: areas and assignment of responsibilities; collaboration; governance; operational factors; joint action and contextual factors. A further examination of the means was undertaken where significant differences were indicated.

Participants were also provided with the opportunity to respond, with professional and practical solutions, to open-ended items, also related to the categories of factors. In this second section of the survey, six items were used to elicit descriptive responses from the participants with respect to their professional solutions to current problems in the interagency delivery of service to special needs students. These responses were categorized according to emergent themes. A trained two-rater procedure was used to place responses under these theme categories and to determine the frequency of responses in each category.


Table of Contents


Research Findings

Interagency Professional Agreement

The occurrence of significant differences between particular service delivery agencies yielded some interesting observations with respect to interagency agreement. Collaboration was the factor rated the highest among agencies. This would, at first, seem to be an indication of strong support for the principles of collaboration, however, the frequency of significant differences for the category of collaboration indicates that respondents had significantly different perceptions regarding the extent to which these collaborative processes should be instituted. This is, of course, important for the development of the considerations for joint action, where agencies coordinate and collaborate their services in program delivery for special needs students. There was only one significant difference for joint action to indicate support for this coordination and collaboration between agencies. Though there was agency support for both collaboration and joint action, the agencies differed in their perceptions of how to apply the principles of collaboration in the pursuit of joint action processes. We found that all agencies perceived themselves to be equally affected by current economic, political, and social stresses.

The extent of professional agreement, between and within service agencies, attributed to specific problems encountered in the delivery of services to special needs students would indicate overall agreement between agencies. While agencies indicated an understanding of the responsibilities pertaining to special needs program development from identification through evaluation of program delivery for their agency, they consistently indicated confusion related to these same responsibilities for other agencies. All agencies accepted responsibility for intellectual, social, physical, psychological, and emotional development. They did not, however, accept the responsibility for the spiritual development of special needs students. Agencies imputed responsibilities to agencies according to customarily assumed roles. Educators were identified for intellectual development; band controlled schools and Mental Health were identified for social development; Public Health was identified for physical development; Mental Health was identified for both psychological and emotional development. While spiritual development was not seen as a major area for agency responsibility, this developmental area was commonly perceived to be the responsibility undertaken by band controlled schools. Professionals within the Social Services agency consistently expressed different perceptions about the processes involved in the delivery of services, as compared to the other agencies.

A high degree of agreement pertaining to the principles of collaboration exists among agencies. There was agreement that interagency collaboration would enhance service delivery to special needs students. However, there were similar agreements in the perception that these principles of collaboration do not widely exist in practice between agencies. Respondents believe they have collaborative skills to work with other professionals and that these processes do exist to some degree within their service agencies.

Related to governance, agency professionals clearly indicated that they understood their own agency's child protection procedures and mission statement. There were strong indications that excessive caseloads were detrimental to the overall effectiveness of service delivery. Agencies do not understand governance issues related other agencies: their operational factors, and their workings relationships, policies, and programs. Agencies seem ready for institutional change and the rapid pace of current change is not a major concern. Respondents indicated that their roles are beginning to change and that this change has been very positive. There was concern expressed that band controlled schools and school divisions do not support other agency professionals.

Survey responses indicate that agencies perceive problems in service delivery with respect to joint action processes. There is a general perception that all aspects of joint action could be improved and that current models of service delivery are not effective. Most agreed that profoundly negative effects to agency effectiveness would occur within five years if there are not changes in the system. This rather negative perception of the future could be result of a negative feeling related to contextual factors. Except for advances in technology, a negative view permeated all factors. This may alarm those concerned with the current system of interagency service delivery because these findings indicate a difficult service delivery environment. Problems in current service delivery processes seem connected to contextual factors.


Table of Contents


Interagency Solutions Regarding Service Delivery

Professionals offered practical solutions for how the service delivery system could be improved. They indicated a need for clarification of responsibility in delivering services to special needs students and said that there should be shared responsibility among the service delivery agencies for development of programming special needs. Agency professionals suggested that specific student needs should define agency responsibilities and that these responsibilities should be dependent on the availability of professional services, resources and expertise.

Various aspects of collaboration were strongly supported. The need for clarification of agency roles and increased communication among interagency professionals were clearly stated. A central coordinating agency and the integration of interagency services were suggested as the best means to facilitate collaboration. Increased time, funding, and personnel resources were identified as essential considerations for the immediate and continued development of collaborative processes. Some comments, by respondents, on issues related to governance included themes such as: departmental restructuring; increased intra and interagency understanding; and the incorporation of the elements of coordination and collaboration. Departmental restructuring refers to the way individual agencies are structured and administered and where the agency is placed in government's organizational chart. The perception that there is a lack of professional understanding with respect to responsibilities. Respondents noted that coordination and collaborative processes will develop if the bureaucratic environment helps to facilitate these processes.


Table of Contents


Operational Factors

Solutions with respect to operational factors included the need for agency redefinition, a collaborative organizational structure, increased communication and cooperation among agency personnel, and an increase in client-centeredness. Overall, the comments provided by respondents were critical of the current system of delivering services to special needs students. However, they were also highly supportive of the need for change in the system and for an interagency perspective in reorganization efforts. It is clear that all agency responsibilities need to be clarified. There would seem to be a growing perception that service delivery should be a shared responsibility among involved agencies and that this responsibility be coordinated among all service delivery partners to special needs students. This was exemplified by a strong expression of support for collaborative processes that had been established through an integration of interagency services. The relationship between collaboration and other factors was evidenced by suggestions that professional roles and responsibilities be clarified. Increased interagency communication and understanding are important considerations in the development of the collaborative processes. To facilitate changes in the service delivery system, governance issues must be recognized through departmental restructuring to incorporate collaborative and coordinating processes. These processes would best be facilitated through measures utilized to increase inter-departmental understanding between agencies.

However, the institutionalization of principles of collaboration were perceived to be only a partial answer. Developing a collaborative organizational structure, increasing communication and cooperation among agencies would enhance the delivery of services. To develop these collaborative processes, departmental restructuring would involve changes to the provincial legislation, to senior administrative organization, and to standardizing resource allocation and funding. Greater communication, leadership, and funding were presented as solution themes aimed at the development of collaborative processes.

There was general agreement among agencies that problems were indeed encountered in the interagency delivery of services. Contextual factors, such as economic, political, and social were perceived to have a major negative effect on the interagency delivery of services to special needs students. The definition of responsibilities was confusing, leaving questions about whose responsibility it might be for the varying aspects of special needs programming. Collaborative efforts were difficult to achieve due to problems associated with operational factors and governance. Without collaboration, agency professionals found it difficult to move toward processes of joint action.


Table of Contents


Agency Roles and Responsibilities

The professional solution themes indicated strong support for the clarification of agency roles and responsibilities, and addressed how these should be determined, defined, and administered. The processes of collaboration were strongly supported by respondents who believed that collaborative processes are necessary in any restructuring of the service delivery system. In their agreement with the identification of problems associated with operational factors, respondents were able to provide suggestions on how these might be alleviated through departmental reorganization and enhanced collaboration. Combining the principles associated with responsibility, collaboration, governance, and operational factors, the system can develop the processes of joint action.

This high level of concern related to clarity of interagency responsibilities stems from the confusion regarding who is responsible for planning, budgeting, and developing particular programs for special needs students. At a time of accelerating need for services, interagency responsibility had become blurred to the point of dysfunction. Respondents disclosed that while they understand their own agency's responsibilities for special needs students, they were not sure about the responsibilities of other agencies. Agencies continue to use a traditional agency responsibility framework to designate services. On a case by case basis, these traditional views do not always accommodate the needs of the special needs students. In short, special needs students with complex programming problems confuse service delivery agencies. This confusion had resulted in either programming ineffectiveness or the absence of programming.

The lack of interagency understanding concerning areas and assignment of responsibilities indicated that the system designed for special needs service delivery had not evolved with changes occurring in the society it served. In fact, the bureaucratic structures were restrictive and constrictive in their capacity to serve the needs of those for whom services were originally intended. Areas and assignment of responsibilities is a good place for agencies to begin to reflect on interagency delivery of special needs services, and to provide an indicators of the extent to which systemic problems face all partners in the delivery of services.


Table of Contents


Collaboration

This study has indicated that respondents agree with the principles of collaboration insofar as these contribute to the development of interagency delivery of service but that agencies are currently working, as Bruner (1991) suggests, at level one interagency collaboration (the administrative level). This level of collaboration is descriptive of administrators managing their agency to facilitate interagency collaboration through protocols, interagency agreements, staff organizations, staff incentives, and job evaluation systems. This level of collaboration was exemplified, in the region studied, by the existence of what had been termed Multi-Agency Planning (MAP's) meetings. The existence of this level of collaboration may be viewed as a beginning for the development of these collaborative processes and, as Bruner (1991) states, may lead to increased collaboration at other and higher levels. This level of collaboration also indicates that some agencies may be using, what Bruner (1991) has termed, a "first generation approach" to the development of collaborative processes. This collaborative development is characterized by the top down initiatives that often begin a restructuring process. It is important, as Bruner (1991) warns, to appreciate that the development of collaboration can be stalled at this level of approach unless further approaches are developed. There was no indication in the responses to this survey that second or third generation approaches, as advocated by Bruner (1991), were present within current interagency practices.

It is clear that coordination and collaborative processes enhance the delivery of services to special needs students and that such policies and practices should be encouraged and supported. However, these processes are not easily implemented, as the frequency of significant differences among agencies indicates; the myriad of perceived problems and obstacles demands not only new thinking but new habits of thought (Bruner, 1991). Since these processes do not currently exist between agencies, it is clear that the barriers to collaboration do not provide agency professionals with the excuse for organizational apathy. Barriers include organizational behavior, institutional mindsets, and budget, financial, and resource allocation rigidities that each severely challenges a system's ability to collaborate (Rodriguez et al., 1988 and Fruchter, 1987). It takes strong organizational leadership and political commitment to prevent these barriers from becoming dehabilitating obstacles. The key to collaborative development will be enhanced communication among agency professionals involved in the development of programming for special needs students.


Table of Contents


Governance

It is well understood (in Integrated School-Based Services For Children and Families, 1992) that governance issues are critical for the future development of interagency approaches for the service delivery because governance provides the framework from which these approaches operate. Governance sets the parameters concerning how agencies are structured, organized, lead, administered and financed. The professionals in this study agree with Amster and other (1990), in his call for major restructuring, with the creation of new legislation that recognize interagency approaches and support the collaborative processes for new service delivery approaches. At local and regional levels, agencies should develop interagency protocols that firmly establish joint interagency policies and structures for the referral and assessment of special needs students and for program development, implementation, follow up procedures, and program evaluation. These new approaches should be based on jointly assessed needs and availability of pooled agency resources.

While it is apparent that agencies were knowledgeable about the governance of their own agencies, respondents indicated their lack of understanding about governance issues of other service delivery agencies. Clarification of areas and assignment of agency responsibility and enhanced communication processes would likely displace these lackings. Communication technologies may well help meet this need. For example, computer software, aided by advancements in telecommunication systems, may provide alternatives and viable solutions to barriers caused by geographical distance and scheduling dilemmas. It is clear that the inadequacy of the resources is an ever-present concern. These limitations translate into service delivery problems that necessitate interagency coordination of services and provide the organizational motivation for rethinking the system as whole (Amster and others, 1990; Murray, 1990).

Operational factors describe the levels of understandings that agencies have for each other regarding the bureaucratic structure, mandate, process, and procedures of other service agencies. It was clear from the findings of this study that a severe lack of understanding exists among agencies. Members of the American Public Welfare Association (1988), suggest that to make interagency efforts work, agency administrators must be able to understand and appreciate the significantly different ways their respective agencies are structured. This interagency understanding is dependent upon the development of collaborative organizational approaches and structures. Increased communication and coordination among agency professionals helps agencies to gain a broader perspective of their entire system rather than seeing the delivery system solely through their own agency's operations.

Agency professionals indicated that they perceived their roles and responsibilities to be changing toward an interagency perspective. This, some felt, had been energized by the principles of coordination and collaboration and that these changes were being viewed positively by most agency personnel. This is a key factor to the continuing development of the levels and generations of collaboration (Bruner, 1991), as it affords senior policy-makers with the opportunity to make major organizational change with the intellectual ascent of key personnel. This study noted an anticipation of major change, accompanied by a growing anxiety linked to a questioning of the sufficiency and fitness of impending changes. Agency professionals wonder if anticipated changes in the interagency delivery of services would make a real difference in helping special needs students and avoid merely creating the facade of help while the interests of the agencies were placed ahead of the interests of the students.


Table of Contents


Joint Action

It is interesting that the provincial government, department of education, training and employment, along with the department of social services, has begun to initiate discussions about the collaborative process with a particular vision for joint action. Bayer (1985) has suggested that the impetus for joint planning comes when there is a realization from both local governments and schools that there are serious economic and social problems that might be addressed jointly rather than individually. As indicated by participant responses concerning economic conditions and social dynamics, both levels of government and school divisions have now come to this realization. While individual service delivery agencies currently use their own methods to collect data and develop programs to meet their organizational goals in their own social context (Murray, 1990), the systemic stresses appear to have loosened past preferences as to the best means for interagency service delivery. This study corroborates Murray's (1990) suggestion that processes for joint action are developing because policy-makers clearly understand that the most desirable and least costly option is to provide early service. However, since the resources allocated to individual agencies are perceived to be scarce, only the most immediate needs are met, according to each agency's priority listings.

The survey responses indicated that collaboration among agencies enables the special needs student and professionals to consider the entire range of individual needs and goals and helps to develop an integrated plan that makes logical connections and transitions (American Public Welfare Association, 1989). Respondents agreed with the literature that suggests that nonacademic approaches, such as counseling and recreation, must be linked to the school system. These linkages, say respondents, will contribute not only to the financial efficiency of the delivery of services, but also to the effectiveness and continuity of the program prescribed for the student (Bruner, 1991).

Study respondents raised five factors, also identified by Melaville and Blank (1991), that together combine to influence all interagency joint efforts: positive social and political climate; governing policies of agencies; provincial support for resources; practical limitations; and, professional limitations of joint action. There appears to be a supportive social and political climate where solutions to complex problems have become the priority of the community, the key decision makers, and the service agencies. Respondents indicated that formal meetings between senior administrators, at a regional and provincial level, on the subject of interagency services have enhanced the supportive climate necessary for interagency system improvement. However, respondents indicated a lack of process to develop collective interagency goals and objectives. This is a critical response for the continuing development of collaborative efforts in joint action initiatives and is indicative of the need for strong leadership in the development and implementation of collaborative efforts. Our respondents indicated that agency leadership are willing to develop these collaborative processes, both within and between agencies. As Melaville and Blank (1991) suggest, effective leadership serves a pivotal role to influence the process of agreeing on common goals and negotiating a practical vision.

Another set of key factors influencing joint action development are the governing policies of agencies (Melaville and Blank, 1991). According to this study, respondents indicated their concern that governing policies are presently creating barriers for further collaboration and joint action: sufficient authority to implement recommendations; agencies'' abilities to make decisions and implement policy; and the development of interagency action plans. These responses would indicate that implementation and further development of collaborative processes will be met with bureaucratic challenges.

Respondents rated the provincial support by way of providing resources as very low. This same concern is raised by Melaville and Blank's (1991), with respect to the availability of resources. This, ultimately, will determine which of the collaborative and joint action processes will be institutionalized, replicated, and expanded among the various service agencies. There is a cause and effect relationship with respect to support through the supply of necessary resources. Current collaborative efforts and joint action developments in service delivery have been motivated by tough economic times. However, these same tough economic times may restrict the development of collaboration because of a lack of financial support. Political commitment, regarding substantial organizational change, will be associated with the financial support to sustain the development of desired changes toward collaborative processes and joint action.

This study corroborates the claims in the literature that there are practical limits to joint action. A limitation of professional time, combined with large caseloads, in times of economic restraint, results in the system of service delivery responding slowly to those with special needs. As previously outlined, geographic location can also impede the development of joint action plans. The involvement of too many people, indirectly related to a special needs student, causes inefficiencies in both time and resources. The key to participating in joint action plans is the development of collaborative and coordinating processes among the involved agencies. This development should enhance the system with effective programming for the special needs student, as suggested in the literature and corroborated by Melaville and Blank (1991) and Amster and others (1990), that produce joint evaluation and system efficiencies that, in turn, result in the reduction of waste in professional time and financial resources.

Our data also corroborated the presence of professional limits. The system of service delivery should be client-focused rather than designed around existing bureaucratic structures. It should be able to respond to the needs of the student without encountering too many organizationally created barriers. This system requires professional competence in the delivery of specialized services to special needs students to retain the system integrity and effectiveness of programming. There are also confidentiality and legal considerations that impede and limit joint action among various agencies. These should be discussed, considered and justified from an interagency perspective rather than from solely an agency perspective.

If Melaville and Blank's (1991) factors do, in fact, combine to influence all interagency joint efforts, it would appear from survey respondents that development of collaborative processes will meet these difficult challenges. However, administrators might consult the American Public Welfare Association (1988) guiding principles when attempting to implement these processes.


Table of Contents


Contextual Factors

Contextual factors provide the parameters for both the systemic limitations and the visionary plans for the entire system. As such, they have enormous influence on the way service is delivered and the possibilities for improvement. However, these same factors create the barriers for change, through collective psychological blocks rather than from the true inability's in the system. These factors form the basis from which society establishes it perspectives of both the service delivery agency and the special needs student.

We have subdivided these factors into global and demand variables. The social dynamics of the province of Saskatchewan are changing in number of areas. The Saskatchewan Schools Trustee Association (SSTA, 1990) has documented many trends that have a negative impact on the social fabric of society. These impinge on the types of service that is required for special needs students and the means for delivering such services. Political dynamics in Saskatchewan are becoming increasingly complicated, due in part, to the economic conditions as well as to the resulting restructuring. The grant structures, for example, that provide revenue for all levels of government are changing. This, in turn, has caused the lower levels of government to accept either the added financial responsibility or cut services. This has put increasing pressures on local government leaders. The "wellness" model of health care is an example of a shift of responsibility from provincial to local administration. When The School Finance and Governance Review: Final Report (1991) suggested boundary changes, this has caused concern among school divisions about the survival of their long-established rural school divisions.

Current economic conditions were considered the most pressing of all contextual factors. Recessionary conditions have resulted in governmental policy challenges related to financing public demands for service. A high debt load, during times of shrinking revenue, has exacerbated the problem. This has created a situation where public and private services have been cut back or eliminated entirely. The closure of small rural hospitals and the closure of hospital beds, prescribed under the "wellness" model, typify measures of health care restructuring. The loss of services, as well as the loss of jobs, has created a very negative economic climate. This was "loudly" reflected in the respondent ratings. The depopulation of rural Saskatchewan is also a result of these current economic realities. Both the retail and the agricultural industries, said by some to be disappearing in rural Saskatchewan, are shrinking.

Societal expectations are in transition. While there is a growing public awareness of the grave economic conditions and changing political and social dynamics. There is also an optimistic sense, among the interagency personnel, surrounding the prospects for special needs students compared to the general perceptions held of current social conditions. Respondents believe, that while conditions are difficult, the desire to help special needs students remains an important item on the social agenda.

Eligibility criteria still appear to confuse some agency personnel. A working knowledge of how other agencies admit children for services is another concern. The complexity of problems faced by the service agencies may make eligibility criteria a function of agency resources rather than a function of client need. This makes the "cut off" for including particular students, as eligible for special needs services, ambiguous and inconsistent from region to region. Geographic location affects the delivery of services in a number of ways. There are apparent differences in urban compared to rural allocations of finances. Long distances, geographically, between professional expertise and clients make the delivery of services difficult, time consuming for the professionals, and expensive to deliver services in students' home environments. The distance between professionals also makes it difficult to communicate and share information for joint planning and programming. Advances in technology are helping but meetings are both difficult to schedule and organizationally expensive; albeit that they provide some benefit for the special needs students' programs. It would appear that, in this time of economic restraint, the close proximity of service agencies to each other and their clients is considered advantageous. Agencies in urban centers do not experience these barriers in the same way and so may be in better positions to collaborate and facilitate joint action planning than those in geographically remote areas.

Advances in technology received the only positive rating from respondents. Technology has made major advancements for the physically and mentally challenged. These processes have enhanced their quality of life. Technology has improved the diagnosis and treatment services for these special needs students. Technology has also increased the efficiency of information interchange among professionals both from within and between agencies. Altogether, advancements in technology are changing the nature of program development for special need students. These advances are also changing the preferred means for delivering the professional services to these students.

The marked acceleration of demands for services was recognized among agency personnel as a function of social dynamics and as a growing social concern. As these demands rise, so do the costs of services. The system is further stressed with the financial limitations dictated by economic conditions. This has an affect on eligibility because the system attempts to service priorities according to financial resources rather than solely as a function of student's need.


Table of Contents


Community-based Approaches

This study would indicate that, because of the relationship between institutional and contextual factors in the delivery of services using an interagency approach, it is a requirement of organizational restructuring that agencies embrace the pivotal processes of joint action planning and collaboration. However, before interagency collaboration can begin to develop, and to ensure the institutionalization of interagency collaboration, the issues related to areas and assignment of responsibility, governance, and operational factors must be jointly addressed by the participating agencies. Interagency collaboration is essential during the restructuring process of evolving new service delivery models (Bruner, 1991).

Reorganization that facilitates joint action, through collaboration, may be said to be in its early development due to the extant structural and organizational barriers. As Mawhinney (1993) suggests, "[t]here are deeper structural failings to confront when attempting to provide more effective services" (p. 43). It is in the notion of the community or the social infrastructure, that stability, security, and shared values are embedded. The focus on community in an interagency delivery of services approach, is supported by Gutherie and Gutherie (1991) who indicate that:

As [these] pioneer efforts unfold, every community can and must begin to create its own interagency collaboration. Just as all politics are local, so will improved services for children develop in the contexts of particular communities, schools, and service agencies. The strategy that helps collaboration in one community may not apply in the next; and the set of agencies involved, or how they connect with the schools, may differ from community to community. (p. 17)

It is collaboration then, in the areas and assignment of responsibility, governance, and operational factors, that will provide the means for effective joint action. Since joint action is an embodiment of the community, it becomes essential that new approaches for interagency service delivery be based upon the community. There are many types of communities; each determined by a variety of social, political, economic, and geographic factors. An interagency approach to service delivery that is community-driven will have some unique community characteristics. New "community-based models" must, however, be guided by collective approaches that enable agencies to form workable alliances and coalitions. As the Children First (1990) report suggests, it is important to devolve authority for more children's services from a provincial to the local level. It is through these means that communities can recognize and determine needs; and jointly develop, implement and evaluate programming.


Table of Contents


Review of the Literature

The literature on interagency delivery of services to special needs students would indicate that contextual factors constitute an important factor to be considered in interagency service delivery approaches. These factors, displayed in Figure 1, provide an environmental background for the development and existence of service delivery models. We have indicated that there are two strands in contextual related factors: global and demand elements. Global elements provide the setting for interagency service delivery. These consider social and political dynamics, economic conditions, and societal expectations. The demand strand provides the parameters for interagency service delivery by involving the following elements: eligibility criteria, geographic location, advances in technology, and accelerating need for services.

Institutional factors in the literature, have included five categories: clarity of responsibility; collaboration; governance; operational factors; and joint action. These five categories, also displayed in Figure 1, may be organized under the strands of agency assumption of responsibility, and clarity and compatibility of organizational structures. The agency's assumption of responsibility refers to whose responsibility it is for the identification of special needs students, program development, and program evaluation (American Public Welfare Association, 1988; Helge, 1989; Pfeiffer, 1990). Also included in agency responsibility are the elements related to institutional and organizational coordination and collaboration (Bruner, 1991; Fruchter, 1987; Mawhinney, 1993; Melaville & Blank, 1991; Payzant, 1992; Rodriguez et al. 1988; Swan & Morgan, 1993).

The processes of interagency collaboration, involving the different organizational levels and developmental approaches, are also subsumed within this factor.

Clarity and compatibility of organizational structures, addresses how services are administered and delivered by agencies. This element identifies elements related to agency governance (Mawhinney, 1993; Nellon Foundation, 1988), operational factors (American Public Welfare Association, 1988), and joint action (Bayer, 1985; Bruner, 1991; Pfeiffer, 1990) among agencies. Each of these elements may impact on the means used for interagency service delivery.


Table of Contents


Review of Study Findings

The findings of this study are highlighted by four major notions: mutual dependence, interagency integration, interagency reorganization, and interagency collaborative development (see Figure 2). Agency professionals believe that there must be a mutual dependence with respect to agency responsibilities, mandates, goals, and mission statements. A clarification of this mutual dependence will enable agencies to have a broadened understanding of the professional services available to special needs students and there will be a reduction in service redundancies among agencies. The commitment to, and exercise of, mutual dependence will also provide the interagency system with a means for recognizing gaps in the service delivery system.

Professionals agree that there is a need for interagency integration of services. Agency professionals suggest this may be accomplished through enhanced communication and consultation among professionals. This is especially important with respect to program development, implementation, and evaluation. This integration will be further enhanced as interagency understandings develop and as the practices of joint policy development are institutionalized with respect to the delivery of professional services to special needs students.

Particular solutions related to reorganization were highly supported by all agencies, including: need for legislative change that effect governance issues; greater authority for interagency groups to implement recommendations, make decisions, and develop interagency action plans; secure financial commitments for the development of collaborative efforts in interagency approaches, and development of new structures based upon assessed needs and available resources.

Collaborative developments combine to form a major consideration in the development of new interagency service delivery approaches. For collaborative processes to develop interagency groups must recognize the barriers to the development of collaborative approaches. They must appreciate the practical limits inherent in joint action and the professional limits of joint action must be discussed among participating agencies.

In addition, there must be strong interagency leadership guiding the development of interagency collaborative approaches.

This study has addressed the need to compare the professional perceptions among the major service agencies regarding the problems in service delivery identified in the literature. There was general professional agreement in recognition of the problems and agreement on the professional and practical solutions to these problems.


Table of Contents


Implications of the Study for Practice

Based on the findings of this study, the following implications should be addressed by senior provincial policy makers, service agencies and local communities as these consider interagency approaches to the delivery of services to special needs students:

1. The Departments of Education, Social Services, and Mental Health might create a "Protocol Handbook" that clearly documents the procedures and guidelines demanded from an interagency approach to special needs servicing. This process would enable agencies to respond to issues where both formal and informal policies and procedures conflict between agencies;

2. School division central office administrators might consider establishing a Multi-agency Program (MAP's) meetings format to establish formal contacts with other service agencies;

3. Districts that have developed collaborative beginnings, with the use of MAP's meetings, might consider enhancing this structure for continuing development of second generation collaborative approaches, as described by Bruner (1991);

4. Senior agency administrative meetings might provide forums for the establishment of greater interagency understanding and problem-solving;

5. The Departments of Education, Social Services, and Mental Health might consider developing their approach to interagency delivery of services in pilot sites; by placing existing policy in abeyance and charting reasonable plans for implementing coordination, collaboration and joint action plans;

6. Interagency regions might determine to jointly assess the extent of individual special student needs, the availability of agencies, support, community, school, and business resources and expertise in their areas of jurisdiction;

7. Agencies might provide interagency groups with the necessary authority to implement recommendations, make decisions and develop interagency action plans; and

8. Agencies might consider engaging regional coordinators who would undertake to facilitate the development and growth of coordination, collaboration, and a joint action amongst agencies.


Table of Contents


Conclusions

The problems facing society are increasing at an alarming rate compared to our coping mechanisms. What once seemed simple, now appears to be complicated. That which once made sense, is now confusing. What once worked, is now breaking down. Our society's social systems created to serve our needs are now so complex that any efforts to improve the system will require creative solutions driven by social, economic and political commitment. It is clear that the limitations of the current service delivery models are nearing the end of their capacities and that change is required (Amster, 1990; Helge, 1989; Fruchter, 1987; Melaville & Blank, 1991). It is also clear that the agency professionals who provide these services desire change that will enhance program development for special needs students and that allow them to be more effectual in delivering services to their clients. Required changes, as corroborated by both respondents and the literature, direct social engineers to take interagency approaches by utilizing collaborative processes and joint action planning. In a report entitled, Children First Report, a Ministry of Community and Social Services (1990) documents the notion that:

Government must become the leading partner in creating a public agenda for children and in establishing an integrated framework that ensures that the entitlements of children are met through a holistic system of supports and services. (cited in Mawhinney, 1993, p. 21)

Agency professionals from the region under study recognized the existence of the many of the same problems affecting interagency service delivery as identified in the literature (see Figure 3). They provided similar themes for solutions to these problems. They indicated their support for coordinating and collaborating processes in the interagency delivery of services to special needs students. Four key factors were identified for consideration in the development of new interagency service delivery approaches: clarification, integration, reorganization, and collaborative development. These factors provide organizational guidelines to initial interagency efforts and contribute to sustaining the development of interagency joint action, over the long term. Figure 4 summarizes how the considerations for emerging interagency models are derived from the institutional and contextual factors described in the literature, along with the perceptions and suggested

solutions from agency professionals.

It is clear that the complex problems and the diversity of environmental settings make the institution of a single and simple approach for service delivery unrealistic. Instead, the plurality of society's needs, with the wide-ranging availability of resources and geographical considerations, will dictate that new approaches to interagency service delivery be structured within over-arching community-based organizational guidelines. This then, would accommodate the existence of urban, rural, and northern structures that would reflect more accurately the interagency assessments of demands for and the availability of resources. This also would provide local autonomy for the agency groups in terms of how services might best be delivered within these community-based parameters.


Table of Contents


References

American Public Welfare Association (1988). New partnerships: Education's stake in the family support act of 1988. Washington: (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 309 845).

Amster, J., Boyer, E., & Brown, J. (1990). Investing in our future. The imperatives of education reform and the role of business. Queenstown: Aspen Institute. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 323 327).

Andrew W. Nellon Foundation (1988). Securing our future: The report of the national forum for youth at risk. Denver: Education Commission of the States. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service. No. ED 305 207).

Bayer, D. (1985). Variables in effective interagency relationships. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Los Angeles, CA. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service. No. ED 267 339).

Brown, R. (1986). School retention and the problem of civic exclusion. Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ 346 512).

Bruner, C. (1991). Thinking collaboratively: Ten questions and answers to help policy makers improve children's services. Washington: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Center for the Future of Children (1992). School linked services. Center for the Future of Children. 2 (1).

Craig, R. (1988). Mental health services for children and youth: Strengthening the promise of the future. Human services series. National Conferences of State Legislatures, Denver, CO. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 311 358).

Crichton, A., & Hsu D. (1990). Canada's health care system: Its funding and organization. Ottawa: Canadian Hospital Association Press.

Cummings, T. (1990). The role of executive appreciation in creating transorganizational alliances. In S. Srivastva, D. Cooperrider (Eds.), Appreciative management and leadership: The power of positive thought and actions in organizations (pp. 205-227). San Francisco: Jossey - Bass Publishers.

Department of Education (1992). Interagency protocol. North Battleford: Regional Office.

Department of Education (1992). Integrated school-based services for children and families. North Battleford: Regional Office.

Department of Education (1992). Minister's advisory committee in integrated school-based services for special needs students. Regina: Crown Publications, Inc.

Department of Education (1991). Schools and the community: A necessary partnership: A guide to interagency collaboration. Edmonton.

Farrow, F. (1991). Services to families: The view from the states. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services. 12, 268.

Fruchter, N. (1987). School-community collaboration: Dilemmas and opportunities. New York: Academy for Educational Development, Inc. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 305 405).

Gass, D. & Saskatchewan Financial Management Review Commission (1992). Report of the Saskatchewan management review commission. Regina: Crown Publications, Inc.

Gutherie, P., & Gutherie, L. (1991). Streamlining interagency collaboration for youth at risk. Educational Leadership. September.

Helge, D. (1989). Rural "at-risk" students: directions for policy and intervention. Rural Special Education Quarterly. National Rural Development Institute. 10, 1. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 323 046).

Hensel, N. (1990). Family policy on the community level. Paper presented at the Association for Childhood Education International Annual Conference. Pittsburgh. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 319 489).

Iowa State Department of Education (1990). Guidelines for serving at-risk students. Des Moines: Division of Instructional Services. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 316 632).

Langlois, H., & Scharf, M. (1991). School finance and governance review Final report. Regina: Crown Publications.

League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents (1993). Integrated school-based services in Saskatchewan.

Mawhinney, H. (1993) Discovering shared values: A Canadian perspective on developing interagency collaboration. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Studies in Educational Administration at Carlton University: Ottawa.

Melaville, A., & Blank, M. (1991). What it takes: Structuring interagency partnerships to connect children and families with comprehensive services. Washington: Education and Human Services Consortium.

Merriam-Webster (1983). Webster's ninth new collegiate dictionary: Springfield: Author.

Ministry of Community and Social Services (1990). Children first: Report of the advisory committee on children's services. Queen's Park: Toronto: Author.

Murray, R. (1990). Future directions for health care in Saskatchewan. Regina: Public Affairs Branch: Saskatchewan Department of Health.

National School Boards Association (1991). Link-up: A resource directory. Interagency collaboration to help children achieve. Alexandria. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 339 782).

Nettles, S., & Greenberg, B. (1990). Community involvement and disadvantaged students: a review and annotated bibliography. (Report No.8). Baltimore, MD: Center for Research on Effective Schooling for Disadvantaged Students. Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Washington, D.C. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 325 601).

Nellon Foundation (1988). Securing our future: The report of the national forum for youth at risk. Denver, CO: ECS Distribution Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 305 207).

Norusis, M. (1983). Introductory statistics guide - SSPS. Chicago: SPSS Inc..

Payzant, T. (1992). New beginnings in San Diego: Developing a strategy for interagency collaboration. Phi Delta Kappan. October

Pfeiffer, S. (1980). The school-based interprofessional team: Recurring problems and some possible solutions. Journal of School Psychology. 18, (4).

Province of British Columbia (1991). Closer to home: Summary of the report of the British Columbia Royal Commission on health care and costs. Victoria: Crown Publications, Inc..

Ramminger, K. (1988). Early intervention with children at-risk: Marquette County's strategy to increase school success and reduce social service cost. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 314 825).

Rodriguez, E., McQuaid, P., & Rosauer, J. (1988). Community of purpose - Promoting collaboration through state action. Denver: Education Commission of the States. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 306 700).

Saskatchewan Boundary Commission Report (1992). Regina: Crown Publications, Inc.

Saskatchewan Education (1992). Minister's Advisory Committee on Integrated School-based Services for Children and Youth. Children first: Coordinating community action.

Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (1992). Building a community for learning: Integrated school-based services. Regina: SSTA Research Centre.

Saskatchewan School Trustees Association (1992). The role of the school symposium. Regina: SSTA Research Centre.

Stephens, P., & Kroeger, M. (1989). Success for at-risk students: a continuing priority. Elmurst: North Central Regional Educational Lab. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 317 628).

Swan, W., & Morgan, J. (1993). Collaborating for comprehensive services for young children and their families. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Texas Health and Human Services Coordinating Council (1991). Information and referral in Texas: A plan to improve services. Report of the Texas Information and referral task force. Austin: Texas Rehabilitation Commission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 300 896).

The Educational Priorities Panel (1988). Schools and communities as partners. New York, NY. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 254 593).

Sutherland, R., & Fulton, J. (1990). Health care in Canada. A description and analysis of Canadian Health Services. Ottawa: The Health Group.

West Virginia Governor's Task Force on Children (1989). The Governor's task force on children, Youth, and families. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 324 183).

Who's looking out for at-risk youth. (1985) Chapel Hill: MDC, Inc. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 299 338).

1 Band councils may establish, finance and govern their own schools. Many follow the Saskatchewan provincial curriculum but are not part of the provincial public or separate school systems.


Table of Contents


Back to: Students - Diverse Needs