A personal request to DHS-funded prevention service providers
- Another passonate plea for community involvement. It is one of the
many calls to action that can be heard daily if not hourly. These
calls are broadcasted in print, radio, tv commercials, word of mouth
and electronic mail.
It seems like the boy whom called wolf has his family calling out the
danger of the wolves that are present. Many residents are shell
shocked and has developed a immunity to the warnings.
Most feel powerless while reading and listening to the main stream
media blasting the falling market indicators and the daily
unemployment figures. Many persons I have spoken to just shake their
heads and keeps walking most are in a trance.
The casino and library activist seem to have won a few battles and
many city dwellers are sitting back and have become satisfied with
those minor wins.
I am excited and dedicated to getting the word out over and over
again. Please take your time and read this post that was found on the
phillyblocks yahoo group email I received this morning..
The full post can be viewed after the jump.
Posted by: "David Fair"
A personal request to DHS-funded prevention service providers
David R. Fair
January 30, 2009
I am writing to you as the former director of the DHS Division of
Community-Based Prevention Services to share some information and advice
on the appropriate response to the likely additional funding cuts that
the City will make for the services you and other community agencies
provide. While further damaging cuts in the community-based networks
DHS has built over the past 8 years are inevitable given the city's
severe budget crisis, I believe that it is still possible to influence
the Mayor and the Department on how those cuts should be made and most
importantly, what needs to be preserved.
You know as well as I that the results that you achieve every day for
children and families are obvious and long-lasting to you and the
families you serve.
Unfortunately, in the world we live we are often held to an impossible
standard of guaranteeing outcomes that are influenced by many other
factors. The tendency of government is to say that if your program
doesn't immediately solve a problem in a way that saves money,
it's not worth doing. Traditionally, the politics of taxpayer
funding means that the complexity of community and asset-based services,
and the fact that results are often not immediate, makes our successes
hard for decision makers to grasp and even harder for them to defend.
The bunker-style management that crises such as that we are currently
experiencing creates makes that process even more difficult.
As an individual who has done my best to support and advance the cause
to which you dedicate yourselves every day, I want to ask you to step up
in the next few weeks to articulate to the Mayor, the media and the
public the facts that you and I know but they just don't know â"
that your programs work, and we cannot afford to lose them. Just since
last January, we have lost almost $20 million â" over one-fourth
â" of the network of community services that we together built over
the past eight years. First it was the after school and youth programs
serving thousands of schoolchildren that were funded through Safe and
Sound; then it was more youth programs, parenting programs, family
services, delinquency prevention and adolescent support programs.
In the debate over funding levels, contractual requirements, statistics
and databases, what is usually lost is the fact that thousands of
Philadelphia families have relied and benefited from these programs.
In a debate about money, these individuals and families become
impersonal commodities to be filed and quantified â" not citizens,
simply looking to their government for help in protecting their
We've allowed that to happen because of our silence. To make the
budget debate about real people, we need to speak up.
I strongly encourage you to attend each of the upcoming series of
meetings sponsored by the Mayor's office
<http://whatmatters.uwde.org/wm012609.html#mayor> seeking input on
budget priorities for next year. As the Free Library advocates have
shown, regular people advocating for what is right can sometimes
prevail. But it doesn't happen on its own and doesn't happen if
you wait for someone else to speak up for you.
* Make sure you personally appear at as many of the Mayor's
forums as possible in the next few weeks. Click here
<http://whatmatters.uwde.org/wm012609.html#mayor> to read about these
meetings in the most recent edition of United Way's newsletter.
* At these meetings, talk about what you know is working about
your programs â" not just how much you do or how important it
is, but how much of what you do actually works. City officials
have been led to believe that your work is disorganized,
unsophisticated, unaccountable and ineffective â" it's up to you
to make sure they know the truth.
* Make sure that as many of your clients and their families as
possible also show up and speak up at these events. All the facts
and figures about your results are important, but nothing will be
more effective than the people you help speaking up for your
programs and telling the powers-that-be what really is accomplished
because of your work. They'll be told that city's priority has
to be focusing on the safety of children who have already been
abused and neglected, and that is obviously true â" but we can
also help them see that the city has an equal priority, our
community has a equal priority, to embrace the kinds of family and
community supports that prevent that abuse and neglect. And they
need to know that your clients are evidence that it works best when
we do both.
* Make sure to mention that the price being paid by children and
families is not worth it. Make sure the people who hear you know
that for every dollar the city cuts from prevention services, it
only saves 20 cents.
* Ultimately, City Council and the Mayor will have to make very
tough decisions on what we as a city can afford to do given the
fiscal realities. But what is not generally acknowledged is that
the city's expected $2 billion five-year budget deficit is
barely affected by the prevention cuts. Out of every dollar the
city spends on prevention services, only 20 cents is actually city
money â" the other 80 cents comes from matching funds the state
* So when the city reduced the prevention funding by almost $25
million in the last year, it in fact only saved $5 million a year
towards that $2 billion deficit. To save that $5 million, it had
to give back $20 million the state provides DHS to support these
* Or to think of it in another way, the city has put tens of
thousands of children and families at much higher risk of needing
more expensive high-end services â" and at much higher risk of
being hurt by the increased violence and substance abuse cuts like
this have historically produced - to save what comes to only a
0.25% annual savings for city taxpayers.
* You can make this calculation for your own program. Whatever
your budget, if you lose your city funding, the city will only
save 20% of whatever that amount is. The other 80% of your
funding goes directly back to the state.
I want to be clear that I am not saying that what the Mayor and DHS have
done or are considering is a sign that they don't care. I know that
they care, deeply, and I can assure you that while how they make
decisions might seem opaque from the outside, they agonize each and
every day over what is being forced on them by the fiscal realities
I also believe, though, that they will not be able to make the
thoughtful decisions they need to make without the input of people like
yourselves and your clients. To their credit, they have asked for that
input in the upcoming budget forums and cannot be blamed if we don't
take advantage of the opportunity they've provided to give them the
concrete evidence of effectiveness that you know you have.
In the end, some cuts will occur no matter what. So I have one more
request for you once the dust has settled:
* Even with cuts, there will still be millions of dollars
managed by DHS and other city departments for critically important
city services. The Mayor's office and DHS will need to then
make even more difficult decisions as to how to prioritize what to
do with that money. We all need to share with them what we think
works best with the fewer dollars that will likely remain â" again,
we can't demand that they know what our communities need if we
don't speak up and share our points of view. So even when the
immediate battle is over, keep talking. Keep speaking up. Keeping
empowering your clients to advocate for themselves.
In the end, as in the past, we will do our best with whatever we have,
as we have always done. So let us fight to keep what we have even if
it's not all that we need - and make sure that whatever is left is
invested as wisely as possible to help our communities thrive.
Thanks for listening.
David R. Fair