Transforming Human Services, One Human Services Official at a Time

June 25, 2013 |


From left, Gloria Perez, Henry Wilde, Reggie Bicha, and Anne Mosle

Recently I had the opportunity to join several of our Ascend Fellows at the 2013 National Policy Forum in Arlington, Virginia, where we shared the two-generation approach with another national organization, the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA).  APHSA is the governing body for state and local health and human service agency officials – the people responsible for implementing the immense web of rules and regulations related to critical programs such as SNAP, TANF, and child care assistance.  What struck me most was how excited APHSA members were about busting silos and working more collaboratively to support a family-centered model – and that was even before Ascend Fellows took the stage.

Best-selling author and Ascend Fellow Wes Moore kicked off the conference with his inspiring life story and call to raise expectations.  He focused on what each of us can do to help families achieve economic and educational success, and had the APHSA on its feet by 10:00 am.  Wes shared a common goal: that every member of society feels invested in supporting families who need extra help, and that those families in return feel invested in society. 

Throughout his role as conference moderator and panelist, Ascend Fellow Reggie Bicha, executive director of the Colorado Department of Human Services and president of the APHSA, weaved examples of the two-generation approaches he is taking in Colorado to support children and their parents.  He also invited two more Ascend Fellows, Henry Wilde, co-founder of Acelero Learning, and Gloria Perez, president and CEO of Jeremiah Program, to join him in a panel discussion on integrating two-generation strategies into existing state and local human services work.  Anne Mosle, vice president of the Aspen Institute and executive director of Ascend, moderated as Gloria, Henry, and Reggie shared their innovative models and fielded questions about federal funding streams, public policy, and pilot programs.

I was inspired by the dedication of this room full of public servants and encouraged by the opportunities we have to promote a legacy of economic security and educational success for all families.  One of the best moments was David Berns, director of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services, accepting the APHSA Lifetime Achievement Award with this reminder: “Don’t spend money on human services; invest money on better outcomes for families.”

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