Educators in Louisville, Kentucky, became increasingly aware that the academic performance of many of their students was negatively affected by poor access to social services. These children came from families that had to go to one building to apply for food stamps, Medicaid or welfare benefits, to a different site for health services, to another for emergency financial needs, and to yet another for employment counseling. This meant there was no coordination of services and many missed out on some assistance altogether. In response, the state passed the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, which mandated the establishment of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers in or near public schools.
The Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, known as the Neighborhood Place (NP) program, was developed as a joint effort among local service providers to be a convenient one-stop center for these families. NP is a multilevel, public sector service system that brings together staff from multiple agencies in one accessible location to work with families in their own neighborhoods. Public school staff, who come from truancy, school social work, and family resource departments, act as integral partners with health, education, workforce, and human service professionals. NP uses data to link the partnership together. A common "Release of Information Consent Form” allows partners to share data, and workers to communicate, in order to provide integrated, coordinated services to help families achieve stability, safety, and self-sufficiency. Administrators of each NP facilitate the flow of information between multiple-agency staff members, monitor data and outcomes, and nurture cordial, cooperative relationships among the staff at their sites.
Currently, over 500 staff members from state and local governments, the public school district (serving 98,000 students), and the regional mental health agency work together at eight NP and three satellite sites covering the entire metropolitan area. NP boundaries were carefully drawn so that each NP serves an area containing approximately 5,600 children living in poverty. Eight Community Councils, one for each NP, are comprised of customers and people who live and work in the area and guide services tailored to fit each site. It is notable that, when asked about their work, staff routinely identify with their NP site first, before their agency of record. This response indicates the depth of the cultural change within the social services sector in Louisville due to the NP.
The annual Neighborhood Place Client Satisfaction Snapshot, instituted in 1999, has consistently shown that clients are satisfied with NP services and would recommend NP to a friend. In fact, the majority of referrals to NP come from friends, neighbors, and family members. A zero infant mortality rate was maintained from 2002 to 2005 in three NP areas, and the number of women receiving prenatal care went up markedly. Since NP's inception, school attendance has gone up from 92.7 percent to 94.3 percent, which translates into 1,600 more children attending school each day. Louisiana is planning to open six to eight Neighborhood Places in New Orleans and other cities, and Alabama and Texas are also investigating the model.