What is Service Integration?
Service integration means that agencies serving children
and families work together, rather than each operating separate, unconnected
programs. Integration has several different dimensions:
• Awareness: separate agencies in a community have knowledge
of each other’s services.
• Communication: agencies in the community are actively communicating
and sharing information.
• Cooperation: agencies use their knowledge of other services
to guide and modify their own service planning in order to avoid duplication
of service and to obtain a better set of linkages between services.
• Collaboration: agencies jointly plan the offering of services
to families and actively modify their own service activity based on
advice and input from their mutual discussions.
• Fusion: agencies join together to offer a new, fused service
which draws on the service strengths offered in the participating agencies,
but do so in a form which the contributing agencies are no longer clearly
and separately identifiable.
There is a role for each of these types of integration and several
may be operating simultaneously in the same community at the same time.
What Facilitates Service Integration?
There is no single answer to the question, “What
facilitates service integration?” Integration occurs on several
different fronts at the same time. Numerous forces and actions contribute
to successful integration.
Some of the factors that facilitate integration include:
• Relationships – When people from different agencies train
together or sit around the same committee table, they get to know each
other, and get used to working together. Trust and comfort develops.
They are more likely to spontaneously call each other about issues and
• Training – Working together means learning new ways of
doing things. Training like the I-Wrap training program outlines new
processes in a step-by-step manner and so provides a clear roadmap for
• Enabling policies – Most government agencies have policies
which describe how things are to be done. Policies can either facilitate
integration or create fences and walls which make integration difficult.
• A focus on broad outcomes – Integration seems to be easier
when individuals and agencies can focus on results for the end-user,
rather than on organizational mandates. For example, focusing on reducing
the number of FAS/FAE babies, rather than on specific agency responsibilities.
• Communication – Communication is needed among agencies
so that each agency is familiar with others’ mandates and services.
It is needed within an organization so that managers know what’s
happening at the grassroots level, and frontline workers are clear on
For successful integration, action is needed at the top, middle and
• Policy makers – (boards, deputy ministers) can focus
on broad outcomes for children, youth, families and communities; and
structure budgets so they relate to desired outcomes.
• Senior managers – can model integration, create enabling
policies, and support integration through budget and program priorities.
• Middle managers – can model integration, provide opportunities
for interagency training and committee work, support integration efforts,
give grassroots workers feedback on their work, and celebrate successful
• Grassroots workers – can make a huge difference by working
together formally and informally, modeling integration to their peers,
and asking middle and senior managers for the support needed to work
in an integrated manner.
Integration can happen spontaneously, as when frontline workers take
working together for granted, or it can be required. For example, two
provincial grant programs require that applicants partner with other
agencies in order to be eligible for a grant.
Characteristics of Successful Community-Based Groups
||• Information and education for
potential members and community as a whole when committee is being
• Strong support from a community development
worker during first year or two of operation
focus on action as well as on creating long-term vision and goals
for the committee
• A success or achievement that
committee members are proud of during the committee’s first
year of operation
||• Membership that includes a mix of professional
human service workers and local community people
Membership that includes a mix of long-term members and new members
• Chairperson who is positive, cheerful and goal-focused
||• Broad goals that all members accept (e.g.,
to reduce violence in the community, to create more opportunities
for seniors to participate in community life, to reduce the number
of FASE/FAE babies, etc.)
• Programs and projects
that are tied to broad goals
• A mixture of short-,
medium-, and long-term goals, so that the committee experiences
• A focus on getting things done
as well as on networking
• Regular, unchanging meeting
dates (e.g., second Tuesday of every month at 4:00 p.m.)
• Bright, cheerful, comfortable meeting room
|• Consistent technical support for tasks such
as writing and typing minutes, mailing out materials, doing background
||• Buy-in from the larger community, which means
that the community is aware of and supportive of the group’s
• Professional human service workers’
supervisors enable and support their participation in community