THE DECKER PARTNERSHIP
Because the families coming to the Decker Center must address a variety of issues to reach their goal of self-sufficiency, Decker staff must have an accurate and comprehensive assessment of each family's needs. To do this, staff have developed an intake process that is standardized but also can be tailored to each new client. Staff refer to this as the Open Intake Process, or "Open." Education, social service, and mental health staff use the Open process to meet with families, determine their needs, and figure out what resources they can tap into through the Center.
Open occurs during the second week of every month and generally lasts about half a day, for between three and four days. During the first day, a few current Decker clients talk with new clients and answer questions. Staff review preliminary logistics, such as completing registration forms, discussing confidentiality procedures, signing release forms, and copying important documents, for example, Social Security cards and children's immunization records. New clients complete a writing sample and a learning style inventory and then take the locater for the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE), a brief assessment of reading, math, and writing skills.
Clients also complete a Skill Improvement Plan to set immediate goals for improvements in basic English, math, and computer skills. Clients may know, for example, that they have difficulty with spelling, using fractions, or using a computer keyboard. The plan allows them to break their educational goals into smaller increments and choose where they would first like to focus. Later in the day, a psychologist administers two assessments that help identify mental health or substance abuse issues.
On the second day, the pre-employment instructor is available to answer questions about the pre-employment program and oversee the reading and math sections of the TABE. Clients set both long-range and intermediate goals for basic literacy improvements based on their test scores. During the third day, clients meet their assigned outreach worker, learn about the Early Head Start program, and complete a Work Development Assessment form. This form includes information on personal or family health issues, the parent's educational background, employment and training experience, goals, economic self-sufficiency, and personal interests. Participants then take the language and spelling portions of the TABE, and staff members are on hand to help wrap up any remaining paperwork related to transportation, childcare, welfare benefits, etc. A psychologist is also available to meet with clients who may benefit from a more thorough psychological assessment.
Staff then work with individual clients to develop a schedule for their activities at Decker. The information collected from each client during the Open process is compiled in a binder and a copy of the binder is given to each appropriate staff member, such as the nurse practitioner or the early childhood coordinator. A social worker reviews the plan with the client at six-week, three-month, and six-month intervals. To protect privacy, the Open information is shared with other staff on a need-to-know basis, and clients are asked to sign a release form during Open to facilitate this.