How Integrating Government and Community-Based Services Can Help County Residents Thrive

Marie Davidson and Gianna Cacciatore April 8, 2022

Johnny was a young man passionate about starting his own business and eager to build stronger relationships, but his probation history was holding him back. By the fall of 2018, his options were slim: strictly adhere to all probation requirements or return to jail.

That’s when Johnny, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, was referred to Interface Children & Family Services (Interface), a California-based nonprofit service provider dedicated to promoting family stability and economic opportunity for those on formal probation. Interface contacted Johnny, offering him individualized support. Uncertain at first, he eventually decided to give the program a try. Johnny was matched with a case manager and began receiving supportive services. Over the next two years, Interface helped him earn a driver’s license, secure a job, and build self-confidence. These gains helped Johnny better his relationship with his probation officer, establish stronger bonds with his parents, and build a support system of people he could trust.

The Ventura County Project to Support Reentry

Interface was able to provide the complex supports Johnny needed thanks to an innovative partnership between themselves, Ventura County, CA (where he was living at the time), and Social Finance. Launched in 2017, this partnership, called the Ventura Project to Support Reentry, sought to reduce recidivism, improve public safety, and promote family stability for adults on formal probation in Ventura County. At the heart of the partnership was an outcomes-based funding mechanism: impact investors provided upfront capital to fund individualized services for formerly incarcerated individuals like Johnny; the Ventura County Probation Agency referred individuals into services; Interface provided these services; and impact investors were repaid by Ventura County to the extent that measurable reductions in recidivism were achieved.

Impacts of Covid-19

In March of 2020, as the world entered a Covid-19 lockdown, the in-person project was forced to pivot. All services transitioned to telehealth and remained remote through the end of the service delivery period. The reactions to these impacts were as individualized as the service model itself: some case managers noted that remote delivery limited their ability to develop relationships with clients and with probation officers, while others found that client engagement increased due to better accessibility, flexibility, and increased geographic reach.

What We Learned 

The Ventura Project to Support Reentry was ultimately able to provide high-quality, individualized services, many delivered within the context of a global pandemic, to 346 participants on formal probation in Ventura. In doing so, the project achieved its goals of improving public safety and promoting family stability and economic opportunity for these individuals, who were previously excluded from other funding sources.

Though the evaluation results were mixed between the cohorts and difficult to interpret given the impacts of Covid-19, a supplemental analysis showed that progression through  Interface’s case management services was predictive of reduced recidivism. The project’s lenders and deferred fee holders did receive full repayment based on the Pay for Success mechanism which the project used.

“My case manager’s belief and confidence in me, when no one else had any, meant the world to me”

— Johnny, Project Participant 

Beyond the evaluation results, the project provided valuable lessons for Ventura County or other jurisdictions that may want to pursue outcomes-based projects:

  • Project Governance: The project’s governance structure—which included an Executive Steering Committee, a Management Committee, and an Operating Committee—facilitated communication and helped the project’s leadership make adjustments when needed. All parties cited that the project’s governance allowed them to form trusting relationships across partners, resulting in an efficient change management process.

 

  • Data: Regular, rigorous data collection and analysis were key to successful service delivery. For example, the Ventura County Probation Agency cited that making visible the agency’s performance at every stage of the referral and enrollment pipeline helped probation officers understand how they contributed at every step, resulting in a more targeted response.

 

  • Relationship and Engagement Procedures: Strong relationships with partners, participants, and community members streamlined processes and facilitated impact. One important relationship was between Interface’s case manager and probation officers—a strong relationship that allowed the case manager to better engage with clients by meeting them in-person at the probation agency. This relationship showcases how the successful integration of government and community-based organizations can help both parties better serve clients.

 

  • Pay for Sucess Model: While risk transfer was initially an enticing factor for Ventura County to get involved in the project, as time went on it was not the crucial point of importance. Other aspects of the Pay for Success model—namely, its support in organizing the project partners, analyzing data, and directing attention as needed—became more important over time.

The Project’s Impact 

In 2020, Johnny graduated from Interface. Today, he’s employed, in a stable relationship, and renting an apartment with a great view of the water. Best of all, he’s in the process of starting his own business: a jet ski rental company.

“Life is good and I have found myself again,” said Johnny, reflecting on his life since he participated in the project. “My case manager’s belief and confidence in me, when no one else had any, meant the world to me.”