Human Services agencies often claim to be family-centered, but continue to implement “Service Integration” in a way that supports their mission rather than supporting families. David Berns, guest editor for this issue of the Journal of Family Strengths, presents a framework for redefining the role of governmental agencies beyond their day-to-day delivery of services to one that prevents the need for more intrusive and more costly interventions. Under this philosophy, agencies must consider how families functioned before they requested assistance, and how they will function if services are not successful. By taking the time to truly understand a family’s needs, caseworkers often discover that they may need a service for which they are not eligible and may be eligible for services that they don’t want or need. Instead of focusing entirely on what their agency can do for the family, caseworkers should consider all types of support that might produce better results. Families often need support from friends and communities rather than, or in addition to, a formalized service. Facilitating natural supports in the community may prevent the need for a governmental program. It is only when basic supports break down that families must use ever more intensive and costly programs. The author gives examples of how this framework is guiding the redesign of the TANF Program in Washington, D.C.

Author Biography

David A. Berns currently serves as the Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), appointed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray. Mr. Berns comes to DHS from the Casey Family Programs, where he served as the Executive Vice President for Child and Family Services since 2006. He provided strategic direction to the foundation’s nine field offices in Arizona, California, Idaho, Texas and Washington, and its Indian Child Welfare office in Colorado. Mr. Berns stated that he is “excited and humbled by the challenge and opportunity to join the team at DHS to continue the work of serving our most vulnerable populations." Prior to joining the Casey Family Programs, Mr. Berns served as director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. In Arizona, he managed a staff of 10,000 employees and a budget of $2.7 billion, leading Arizona's welfare programs, development disabilities services, employment services, child welfare, child support, aging and community services. Mr. Berns received his Master of Arts in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University and his Master in Social Work and bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. Mr. Berns was named Social Worker of the Year in 1999 by the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. He also received the Award for Excellence in Public Child Welfare Administration from the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators.