Integrated Service Delivery: The Smart Way Forward for Ontario
What is Integrated Service Delivery?
Integrated service delivery (ISD) is a model for supporting the learning and well-being of children, youth, families and communities. Under an ISD model, schools reach out to communities to provide a wide variety of services: education, child care, parenting centres, recreation, employment centres, senior’s programming, libraries, community theatre, mentoring programs, health and psycho-social services. Schools become hubs of community, connecting and serving a variety of local needs. ISD schools (also known as full service schools) provide children, youth and their families with one accessible centre for necessary services such as health and dental clinics, daycare, nutrition programs, counseling, parenting classes and employment information.
This is not a new vision. Since the 1968 Hall-Dennis report to the Ontario Minister of Education, community groups and government task forces have been extensively researching and calling for the implementation of an ISD model for our schools. In some parts of Canada and the United States, it is becoming a reality. Now is the time for Ontario to get on board.
In recent years the ISD model has included an integrated funding strategy. No longer should policy makers at the Ministry of Education get bogged down in discussions about what programs and services fall within the mandate of public education. ISD calls for merged funding streams in order to make effective and efficient use of our public schools and public services.
ISD: The Best Choice for Children and Youth
Research has repeatedly shown that a coordinated and accessible approach to public services is the best way to aid children and youth. In its report to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services, the Advisory Committee on Children’s Services recommended that: “There must be a single major physical centre that operates as a hub of services for children within each community. Where possible, the school should be this centre for service provision” (1990). Their rationale for this recommendation states that “any efforts to promote healthy development must be broad-based and ongoing, must be delivered in an equitable and non-stigmatizing fashion, and must allow ready access for the greatest possible number of children.” School-based integrated service is the logical way to provide this for children.
The evidence also clearly proves that students in schools with integrated service delivery have higher academic and developmental outcomes than those in traditional schools. The Coalition for Community Schools, based in Washington D.C., released a report with the results of extensive research on community schools in the United States. They found that: “community school students show significant and widely evident gains in academic achievement and in essential areas of nonacademic development” (2003). For young people, the results of twenty evaluations showed that those in community schools displayed an impressive array of positive outcomes, including:
- Improved grades in school courses and/or scores in proficiency testing;
- Improvements in personal or family situation, abuse, or neglect;
- Reduced dropout rate;
- Reduced behaviour and discipline problems;
- Decrease in self-destructive behaviour, including irresponsible sexual activity and drug use.
Hubs of Community
Isolated schools with doors that lock at four in the afternoon alienate the community, while ISD schools bring the community in, promoting a shared sense of pride, ownership and belonging. Examples of community schools flourishing in the United States show that the ISD model brings communities together in schools while ensuring the safety of children. It allows different levels of government and agencies to partner with schools to deliver and fund services through one location.
The 2003 Schools as Centers of Community report provides the case study of the Ellen Lurie School in New York City, an elementary school which partners with the Children’s Aid Society and Mt. Sinai Hospital to provide a full-service medical, dental, and mental health clinic, early years programming and a rich after-school program. The school also has a centrally-located family room, which not only serves as a meeting place for parents, but also offers classes in ESL, computer use and “parenting topics such as adolescent sexuality, behavior management, and how to support learning at home. The family room also helps parents learn how they can obtain such key support services as emergency assistance, food, housing, legal aid, employment assistance; and help with benefits, tenant rights, and immigration questions” (2003).
Similarly, the Tenderloin Community School in San Francisco houses “a family resource center, a health center, counseling rooms, an adult education center, a parking garage, and preschool child development center.” As with the Ellen Lurie School, parents and other community members are actively involved as volunteers and the school enjoys “widespread community support” (2003).
There are examples of this type of delivery being started in Ontario such as Halton’s “Our Kids” network and the Toronto District School Board’s Model Schools for Inner Cities project. Yet these excellent attempts to promote learning by supporting students’ complex needs are hampered by funding that is segregated by ministry. Mental health and other services are being integrated into schools only because the schools “donate” unfunded space. This is a fragile and unsustainable situation as school boards look to shut this space down to avoid deficits.
Efficient and Effective Service Delivery
The ISD model not only provides the best public service for communities, children and youth, it also offers a solution for the problem of “silo” service delivery. Research and community consultation from all sectors has repeatedly recommended that government departments cooperate to deliver integrated human services in schools. As the Hall-Dennis report put it four decades ago: “School buildings are expensive resources of major importance, and the public has the right to enjoy their widest possible use…A school board can provide services and participate in programs now divided among such disparate groups as…library boards, service clubs, and social service agencies” (1968). In 1975 The Select Committee on the Utilization of Educational Facilities made the same point in its final report to the Ontario legislature, as did the Royal Commission on Learning in 1995, after two years of exhaustive community consultation.
In 2001, the government of Saskatchewan took this a step further and developed a comprehensive plan called SchoolPLUS based on ISD philosophy and research, as well as extensive community consultation. The SchoolPLUS model, which thinks of schools “as centres of learning, support and community for the children and families they serve,” is now being implemented across the province of Saskatchewan (Government of Saskatchewan, 2006). A key component of the project is coordination between all government ministries dealing with children and youth; integrated service delivery is complemented by integrated funding, which is necessary for successful full service schools.
Ontario’s new Full Day Early Learning initiative necessitates some coordination between the Ministry of Education and those ministries and municipal departments which deal with children’s services. It is a step forward in shared delivery to children but not in shared costs that make for an efficient and fully integrated system. Ontario needs an overarching vision that coordinates programs, services, administration and facilities to serve whole communities.
The Problem and the Moment in Time
We can see the logic of this for Ontario: our public services are confusing for families, our social service agencies have a problem with access, and our schools have a problem with funding. At the present time, schools in Toronto are facing the crisis of “excess space” as our enrolment declines. This phrase is problematic as the space is excess only because it is not funded for the education uses defined by the education funding formula.
The space is not considered excess by the community. It is valuable, usable space that could be filled with government services and agencies which support children, youth, seniors and families. It would then be funded from those sources. Solving the so-called “excess space” problem is an opportunity to break down silo-based thinking and create a new/old model of delivery that has been talked about for too long.
There may be a need to close schools but it should not happen until we have examined the complex needs of children and youth and fashioned a solution which includes making the best use of public school buildings.
Next Steps for Ontario
Research, practice, and communities have spoken; it is time for Ontario to respond. To implement a successful integrated service delivery model, a process and a structure must be developed that involves different levels and departments of government working together alongside local communities. We can look to the provincial and federal governments for vision and funding, our school boards, municipalities, and local leaders for coordination, and our communities for input and monitoring. We can look to SchoolPLUS and other successful models to guide us. We can begin to fashion the solution now.
A Beginning in Toronto-Danforth
Within the Toronto District School Board, ISD work is being spearheaded by the Full Service Schools Task Force. The Trustee representative on the Task Force, Cathy Dandy, is working on developing an ISD process in her ward, Toronto-Danforth. In the spring of 2010, she met with school councils to discuss the idea of full service schools with local communities. Every school council was excited by the idea, thought it made excellent sense for children, youth and families, and are looking forward to playing an active role in moving local ISD projects forward. The next step is a community work group, which will be formed this fall. Check back here for updates as this innovative grassroots process grows.
Bégin, Monique et al. For the Love of Learning. The Final Report to the Ontario Minister of Education and Training from the Royal Commission on Learning. December 1994. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/abcs/rcom/full/
Bingler, Steven, Linda Quinn and Kevin Sullivan. Schools as Centres of Community: A Citizen's Guide for Planning and Design. The National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities: Washington D.C., 2003. http://www.ncef.org/
Blank, Martin J., Atelia Melaville and Bela P. Shah. Making the Difference: Research and Practice in Community Schools. Coalition for Community Schools: Washington D.C., 2003. http://www.communityschools.org/
Hall, E.M. et al. Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario. The Newton Publishing Company: Toronto, 1968.
McIlveen, Charles E. et al. What Happens Next Is Up To You. Final Report to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario from The Select Committee on the Utilization of Educational Facilities. February 1975.
Maloney, Colin et al. Children First: Report of the Advisory Committee on Children's Services. November 1990.
Our Kids Network. http://www.ourkidsnetwork.ca/
Toronto District School Board: Model Schools for Inner Cities.
Tymchak, M. et al. SchoolPLUS: A Vision for Children and Youth. Final Report to the Saskatchewan Minister of Education from the Task Force on the Role of the School. February 2001. http://www.schoolplus.gov.sk.ca/
Links: Examples, Research, Articles and Reports
Examples and Networks:
Etobicoke Brighter Futures Coalition
Better Beginnings, Better Futures
Halton Our Kids Network
Summary of SchoolPLUS
Neighbourhood Learning Centres (B.C.)
Community Learning Centres (Quebec)
Schools Plus (Australia)
Community Schools (Scotland)
Coalition for Community Schools
National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities and NCEF Publications
Full Service Schools Roundtable
School of the 21st Century
The George Hull Centre
Center for Mental Health in Schools
Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement
Community School Partnerships
Articles and Reports:
Schools as Centers of Communities (New Schools, Better Neighbourhoods)
Schools as Centers of Community: A Citizen's Guide (NCEF)
Mental Health in Schools: Guidelines, Models, Resources and Policy Considerations (UCLA)
Mental Health in Schools: Emerging Trends (UCLA)
Building Schools with Senior Citizens in Mind (NCEF)
Building a Community School (CAS, NY)
The Future of Children
The School as a Hub (International Child and Youth Care Network)
Full Service Schooling
Out of the Shadows at Last (Canadian Senate)
The Roots of Youth Violence
Convergance: Community-Based Models of Integrated Service for Children (McMaster. From http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/slru/reports.htm)
Service Integration in Schools (University of Aberdeen)