“There is a natural pressure to look internally to assess whether the services they offer can meet the needs of youth and families… rather than whether another community provider would be better suited,” Cook said.
Additionally, service providers often receive funding tied to the number of youth and families they serve, creating pressure and incentive to increase their income by retaining some cases and making referrals only to other community partners. under certain circumstances, Cook said.
Assessment centers should serve as a neutral, collaborative and community hub that connects youth and families with high-quality services, Cook said.
“To have a service provider responsible for the front door, there’s a problem there,” Cook said. “This creates a conflict focused on the referral services offered by this provider, and not on what is best for the youth and the family.”
Cook said she spoke with local vendors who she said privately raised concerns about the process, but did not feel comfortable speaking with the Quad-City Times.
Only one organization, a Scott County service provider that city authorities have not named, submitted a request in response to the RFP. Cook argues that this is a sign of the flawed process used by the city and the United Way.
Nicole Mann, Director of Decategorization for Eastern Iowa with Scott County Kids, however, said it’s not uncommon for one or two vendors to submit proposals of this nature, especially since many nonprofits battered during the pandemic “are trying to stay true to their mission and not necessarily expand.”