Case #268.0

Contracting For Human Services (A)

Publication Date: January 01, 1979
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John Calhoun was appointed commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services in 1976. At that point the agency was still in administrative turmoil, as it had switched from state-run training schools to privately-operated treatment programs for the delinquents assigned to its care. In particular, the department struggled to develop adequate purchasing procedures for privatized treatment services. It also grappled with inadequate control of budget and program content; a lack of uniform procedures among its seven regional offices; unsatisfactory auditing and monitoring capabilities in its central office; and consequently, numerous public scandals involving some of its programs. Part A provides an overview of DYS and its problems in 1976, and includes a sample contract from this period. Part B traces the attempt of the Calhoun administration to develop a system that would closely manage DYS's privately-run treatment services, describing in detail efforts to establish a complete contract cycle.

Learning Objective:
The case illustrates the problems involved in contracting for goods and services which are hard to specify, especially in a politically charged environment. The experience of DYS indicates the need to find a balance between the flexibility of contracting for services, and the assurance of standards through contract terms and administration.

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
Gordon Chase
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Public Policy Curricular Material Development Program