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ABSTRACT

The Iowa Patch Project was modeled on the British "patch" system of community-centered service delivery and was an innovative method of testing services improvement in a distressed urban neighborhood in Linn County, Iowa. During the three years of the demonstration grant-October, 1991 to September, 1994- project aimed to overcome the categorical barriers that prevent the pooling and use of informal and formal resources which are needed for flexible services- services which build on the strengths of individuals, families, and neighborhoods. The Patch Project ran in tandem with, and was supported by, the Linn County Decategorization Project, an Iowa initiative which merges child welfare funding streams and involves the community in a comprehensive service planning process.

The project integrated staff from five state or local programs: Iowa Human Services, juvenile Court Services, City Housing, County Homemaker Services, and a community center) into a multi-agency team located conveniently within the neighborhood. The project also integrated planning, administration, and evaluation within a governance structure that included senior administrators from all of the agencies that participated directly in the project as well as some that were affected by the innovation.

The evaluation of the Iowa Patch Project showed that overall, services were integrated and improved using the patch model. The project overcame normal turfism to successfully collocate an interagency team of human service workers; it successfully devolved responsibility for service delivery to the team and to line workers on the team and it shifted the workers' practice from a deficit and crisis orientation to one which is proactive, preventive, and holistic.

More specifically, the evaluation showed that services were improved in specific ways. Because of localization, services were more accessible, workers were more approachable, and they were more able to develop informal relationships with consumers and informal helping networks than were workers in a comparison county. Workers had more in-depth knowledge of the geographic area they served and did more in-home work in partnership with consumers. Because of the team itself, workers were more likely to use assessment tools together as a team, they shared tasks with and felt supported by each other, and they had more role flexibility-- they were more able to play a supportive and developer roles with consumers.

In terms of successful international transfer of the Patch model from Britain to the United States, all participants in the governance of the project agreed that the Patch Project had developed well beyond the level of a demonstration program and had taken on a life of its own. As evidence, after the grant period, the Patch Project was integrated with other agencies in Linn County's developing Family Resource Center program and the Patch team was expanded to include state income maintenance workers, a supervisor, and clerical staff. A coalition of organizations, including county government and Iowa Department of Human Services, have assumed on-going support and maintenance of the Patch service delivery system.

 
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