National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care.
Defining Interagency Collaboration
Interagency collaboration in systems of care is "the process of agencies and families joining together for the purpose of interdependent problem solving that focuses on improving services to children and families" (Hodges, Nesman, & Hernandez, 1999, p.8). A more general definition is offered by Linden (2002, p. 7), who states, "collaboration occurs when people from different organizations, produce something through joint effort, resources, and decision making, and share ownership of the final product or service." This collaboration can occur on multiple levels, from frontline collaboration among caseworkers, families, mental health providers, teachers, and others, to collaborative relationships between policy-makers and administrators responsible for addressing organizational mandates, financing, and management. In addition to State and local organizations, interagency collaboration can involve public, private, and/or faith-based sectors as partners. As all agencies invested in serving youth and families are partners, participants may include parents and family advocacy groups, among others. (Robinson, Rosenberg, Teel, & Steinback-Tracy, 2003). In current child welfare practice, the child and family plan, or case plan, defines the services and supports needed by the child and family. An examination of these plans (Knitzer, Cauthen, & Kisker, 1999) reveals gaps created by lack of funding, differing mandates, differing organizational cultures, and lack of effective communication. Collectively, these problems point to the need for systemic change.