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,
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.