Integrated services, cross-agency collaboration, and family literacy

Suzannah Herrmann

Graduate Student in Policy Studies and Educational Organizations

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Judy Alamprese maintains that collaboration among schools and human service agencies at the local and state levels critically contributes to family literacy programs because family literacy programs require multi-faceted services from different agencies, because staff identify integrated services as an essential part of the program, and because the federal government encourages collaboration for funding. Two types of programs illustrate family literacy programs. Kentucky's Parent and Child Education program (PACE), sponsored by the National Center for Family Literacy, demonstrates the first category by following four components: adult education, childhood education, parent and child interaction time, and parenting education. The second category includes programs that do not incorporate PACE's four components and vary by intensity, duration, and direct and indirect services for the child.

Despite the limited number of studies on collaboration processes at the local and state levels, information exists on program characteristics and the challenges that programs face in using collaboration. Collaboration in family literacy programs exists in a variety of forms at the local and state levels. At the local level, agencies work with education and human services agencies for funding, integration of adult and child curricula, and coordination of support services. Even Start and Head Start are examples of such agencies. At the state level, collaboration occurs through legislative mandate among state and local agencies. States, such as Hawaii, Louisiana, and Arizona, passed legislation on family literacy. Because few people have studied collaboration processes in family literacy, Alamprese offers a framework about collaboration. This framework involves strategies organizations use to develop relationships and the communication mechanisms used to sustain these relationships.

Alamprese concludes by indicating possible areas of research in collaboration and family literacy. Some areas include assessing the benefits of collaboration, procedures for developing and sustaining collaboration, and the communication mechanisms used in collaboration.


There are two main implications for education. First, schools can act as one of the key agencies that work with family literacy programs in collaboration. Several issues arise if a school decides to enter a collaborative relationship, such as what kind of resources (physical space, materials, and teacher and administrative time) can be contributed, the parameters of the collaboration (what kinds of overt and covert rules will guide the collaboration), and the consequences of the long term outcomes of the collaboration. Second, collaboration with family literacy programs may act as a safety valve for schools along two lines. Because family literacy programs intervene with at-risk children, children can start school-ready than without intervention. Collaboration becomes important acting as a potential factor which enhances the outcomes of program. It is also a means to communicate to schools if children are at-risk. Because family literacy programs help adults with children obtain a GED, collaboration can also catch individuals who failed to complete secondary school. Collaboration again becomes important acting as a factor which contributes to positive outcomes of family literacy programs for adults. It may also be a means for the schools to communicate about high school dropouts.

Alamprese, J. (1996). Integrated services, cross-agency collaboration, and family literacy. In A.L. Benjamin & J. Lord (Eds.), Family literacy: Directions in research and implications for practice, summary and papers of a national symposium (p.17-23). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.