January 30, 2015

Coffee and Conversation at the Statehouse

Posted in Board of Trustees Spotlight, DCF, Employees, Events, New Horizons Educational Program tagged , , , , , , at 5:04 pm by Lund

Access to the Statehouse in Montpelier and the politicians who work in Vermont’s beautiful capital is very easy. You have to go around to the side doors in winter as the impressive front entrance has too many steps to easily shovel, but no one will question you about your identity or your business there. If you happen to be carrying a large, unwieldy box it’s even quite likely that a friendly security officer or a passing legislator will hold the door open for you. State government in Vermont is accessible and open to hearing what the people have to say. Lund took the opportunity on Friday, January 23 to connect with legislators by inviting them to an informational coffee hour to learn about Lund’s programs that are designed to help Vermont’s children and families.   For,  decades Lund has worked with the state of Vermont to provide education, treatment, adoption and family support services to Vermont families through contracts and grant agreements with the Vermont Agency of Human Services and the Agency of Education. Through these and other collaborative partnerships, Lund has been able to reach over 3,400 individuals from over 1,500 families last year. The time that Lund staff and board of trustee members spent at the Statehouse was a chance to share the scope and depth of  its work with elected officials from all over Vermont.

Lund’s Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson has been the representative for Burlington’s Chittenden 6-6 district since 2012 and brings her extensive experience working for and running various nonprofit organizations to her work in state government. “It’s important that our legislature hear about the challenges that the children and families we work with have, so that we can work to make Vermont a place where every child and family can be safe and successful,” says Barbara.   “Being able to talk about the plight of the poor, homeless, addicted, or abused is important, as is being able to talk about human services systems and work of the nonprofit sector. This is the first hand experience that I can bring to the legislature.”   Barbara was able to introduce many fellow members in the Vermont House of Representatives and members of the Vermont State Senate to her colleagues at Lund and connect them over pressing current issues such as child protection, early education, the experience of incarcerated women and other aspects of Lund’s work.

Lund staff and board members at the Statehouse.

Lund staff and board members at the Statehouse.

Lund’s focus at this event was Results Based Accountability (RBA). Over the past year all Lund staff were trained in the Results Based Accountability framework and then participated in establishing performance measures for each Lund program that focus on outcomes that will answer the most vital question, ‘Are People Better Off?’ Lund strongly values continuous improvement of all its programs and reviews are conducted regularly. Lund staff have also worked with contract managers of department areas of the Agency of Human Services to use Results Based Accountability to look at performance measures across contracts/grants in an effort find efficiencies and improvements. Lund is a leader in Vermont in using RBA and is committed to statewide efforts to promote the use of the system among other non-profits. The state is similarly committed to Results Based Accountability to ensure that it is getting the data driven results that  it expects from its investments.   Legislators were interested in the results of our recent programreview of New Horizons Education Program based on our newly established performance measures, and were appreciative of Lund’s reports and handouts which they will be able to use in committee discussions.

Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, Kim Coe, spent much of her time at the coffee hour talking with people she has known and interacted with during her almost 30 years working in the human services arena in Vermont. Kim and many Lund staff are advocates for the families Lund serves and therefore look for opportunities to be a resource and voice whenever relevant to the issue at hand. “The Vermont Legislature is an extension of ourselves, it is our neighbors, our friends, our business partners. These are real people that are directly connected to what is happening for all Vermonters,” says Kim. “We are so fortunate to live in a state that affords citizens the opportunity to shake the hand of policy makers and to have direct discussions about issues most important to Vermonters. Our citizen legislature prioritizes the voice of its constituents.”

After the coffee hour, Lund staff and board members went to the floor of the House of Representatives to be introduced by Rep. Rachelson and to be recognized by the members of the House. It is a wonderful privilege to sit in the antique red velvet chairs under a portrait of George Washington and see the workings of state government first hand. The formality of the setting and the procedures are made friendly and welcoming by the smiles and whispered greetings of the legislators sitting near the front.

As you prepare to leave Montpelier, it is hard not to take one last look at the golden dome of the State House with its statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, standing guard on top, without feeling that actually everyone in Vermont  part of what is happening inside.

 

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