1993 Finalist
Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

During his campaign for county executive, David Schulz was very outspoken about the imperative to address the needs of children, especially those living in poverty. In 1988, after being elected, he called for the development of a Youth Initiative, a child-centered strategy to prevent a lost generation. Dr. Howard Fuller, then the county director of Health and Human Services, was appointed to chair a committee of youth-serving providers to develop the strategy. These providers included representatives from the police department, the Milwaukee Public Schools, Office of the Mayor, State Department of Health and Social Services, municipal and children's court judges, community-based health, social services, recreational and mental health service agencies, and the Private Industry Council.

The purpose of the resultant Youth Initiative: Neighborhood Coordinating Councils program was to develop a child-centered strategy for addressing the problems of Milwaukee's youth. This initiative aimed to do so through the targeted improvement of the quality and sensitivity of services provided to families in specific neighborhoods.

Two target areas were identified by zip code and two corresponding councils were formed. These "neighborhoods" reflect populations with high multiple risk factors such as crime, gangs, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy and poverty. Council members are neighborhood residents, local service providers, service recipients, and clergy who have been oriented to the fundamentals of social service delivery.

The councils, which meet monthly with interim subcommittee meetings, assess both the effectiveness of the social service system and their own neighborhoods needs. Using interviews, anecdotal information, and some surveys, they compile a written list of the services that are presently provided by the county in their respective target area and identify service gaps. This information is forwarded to the Department of Human Services director and his management team in the form of an annual written Neighborhood Service Delivery Plan, which recommends resource allocations and suggests systemic changes. Implementation strategies are designed jointly between the Department of Human Services and the councils and are funded by the county and independent resources.

The success of the councils is evident in the annual development and completion of a comprehensive neighborhood service delivery plan presented to administrators and elected officials. As a result, there were $3,000,000 of funded programs in 1991 and nearly $4,000,000 in 1992, targeted to the two neighborhoods. Success is also evident in the degree to which the councils monitor processes and outcomes of funded programs. In both 1991, and increasingly in 1992, services were redesigned based on council feedback.

The participation of neighborhood residents and service recipients also continues to increase within the councils, with residents chairing committees and assuming positions within the councils. Resident Council membership has increased 25 percent from 1991 to 1992.