Conceptualization and measurement of integrated human service networks for evaluation
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INTRODUCTION: Integration has been advanced as a strategy for the delivery of a number of human services that have traditionally been delivered by autonomous agencies with independent processes and funding sources. However, measurement of the dimensions of integration has been hampered by numerous factors, including a lack of definitional and conceptual clarity of integration, and the use of measurement tools with atheoretical foundations and limited psychometric testing. THEORY/METHODS: Based on a review of integration measurement approaches, a comprehensive approach to the measure of multiple dimensions of integrated human service networks was conceptualized. The combination of concepts was derived from existing theoretical, policy, and measurement approaches in order to establish the content validity and comprehensiveness of the proposed measure. RESULTS: The dimensions of human service integration measures are: (1) Observed (current) and expected structural inputs, or the mix of agencies that comprise the network (e.g. extent, scope, depth, congruence within an agency, and reciprocity between agencies). (2) Functioning of the network both in terms of the quality of the network or partnership functioning and ingredients of the integration of the networks' working arrangements and range of human services provided. (3) Network outputs in terms of network capacity (e.g. what is accomplished, for how many and how quickly given the local demand) measured from dual perspectives of the agency and the family. CONCLUSION: This newly developed measure unites multiple perspectives in a comprehensive approach to the measurement of integration of human service networks. Content validity has been established. Future work should focus on further refinement of this instrument through psychometric evaluation (e.g. construct validity) in diverse networks and relating these measures of network integration to client and system outcomes.
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