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The Feds Introduce a Program for Disconnected Youth

When it comes to involvement in human services, the federal government usually gets dinged more for its straight-jacket rules and regulations around spending than it gets praise for being a creative partner in innovation. But for the past few years, there's been a faction of folks at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) who have been interested in leveraging the cash and the coordinating capacity of the feds with the creativity of all those on the front line -- states, localities, providers and advocates.

The manifestation of this interest is a performance partnership pilot aimed at tackling the problem of disconnected youth, defined as young adults who are neither working nor in school. OMB officials are looking for up to 10 pilot sites that will be allowed to blend existing federal funds in order to experiment with new approaches to helping these kids get an education and a job. Winning pilots are also eligible for up to $700,000 in additional funding. READ MORE

Delaware Revamps Family Services

Delaware is headed into year three of a major push to overhaul how it delivers children and family services, an initiative strongly supported by Gov. Jack Markell and ably directed by Vicky Kelly, the director of the Delaware Division of Family Services. The theme of the overall reform is family engagement, including a strong push on structured decision-making.

It's an overhaul that was long overdue. Even long-time, top-level Division of Family Services (DFS) staff admit that a whole lot of what is considered state-of-the-art practices in children and family services had passed Delaware by. That combined with a classic, very cautious approach to dealing with families in crisis -- the system was inclined to pull kids first and worry about whether removal was actually justified later -- meant that way too many kids were being hauled into state custody unnecessarily. READ MORE

Remembering Mayor Menino

Newly elected mayors like to be judged, and generally are judged, on the breadth of their vision. They march into office following campaigns in which they promise to produce world-class schools, dramatic new efficiencies in management and spectacular economic development. They deliver inaugural speeches proclaiming that, given enough energy and creativity, no goal is unreachable.

When they leave office, however, it is a different story. By then, the public and most of the pundits have lost track of what the original promises were, and judge mayors on how well they handled the details -- clearing away snow, repairing the streets, keeping municipal employees on the job and a myriad of other administrative challenges far beneath the lofty rhetoric of Inauguration Day. READ MORE

Can Water Use Be Cut with Equity and Fairness?

California's ongoing drought "has created a water crisis second to none," says Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is asking residents and businesses to cut their water use by 20 percent over the next two and a half years. Garcetti's description of the situation as a crisis is well placed: Even though L.A. has already reduced its water use by 17 percent over the last seven years and now uses less water than it did 40 years ago, when it had a million fewer residents, the city still imports more than 80 percent of its water, and those sources are drying up.

Garcetti's goal is to cut those expensive water imports in half by 2024. For the moment, he's counting on largely voluntary restrictions for residents, but whether voluntary measures can get the city to Garcetti's goal is an open question. A recent UCLA study of water use in Los Angeles over a 10-year period found that current prices and household allocations were not sufficiently targeting high water users. And the researchers found that previous mandatory restrictions, coupled with increased prices, had a greater impact than voluntary measures. READ MORE

Cuts to Child Welfare Force States to Spend Smarter

At a glance, it appears we have something of an epidemic. Reports out of Florida, South Carolina and Texas, among others, suggest that several state children and family services systems are struggling. This naturally leads to the question of whether, in light of all these reports, we're headed for further (or chronic) crisis in the child welfare world?

Whenever bad stories start flowing from states, there are a few additional key questions that invariably come up: The first is, are we spending enough money on child welfare? The second is, are we spending money in as effective a fashion as possible? The former is a particularly relevant question right now in the wake of two recent reports. READ MORE