The Pathways to Potential Approach



Charles Wright Group Photo



We believe everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams. Some just need extra support and assistance along the pathway to achieve their potential. In 2012, we created Pathways to Potential. Pathways is an innovative approach to providing human services that targets five outcome areas: attendance, education, health, safety and self-sufficiency. The Pathways to Potential approach relies on three critical elements to help clients reach their greatest potential:


  1. We go where the client is located. By going into the communities where our clients work, live and go to school, our staff gains a greater understanding of the barriers that are preventing them from reaching their greatest potential. Working together in the community puts clients and their family members at ease. Employees are able to build trust with clients so they will disclose challenges before they become barriers that prevent them from reaching their goals of independence.
  2. We work one-on-one with families to identify and remove barriers and connect them to a network of services. We know it’s not healthy, effective or sustainable for a family to only be involved with DHS on the road to reaching its greatest potential. For that reason, we connect families to entire networks of support so each member has the long-term support they need to reach their goals. Whether it’s an algebra tutor for a student in the family or a referral to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for career training for a parent, we work with the entire family to build ties to community resources that stay in place long after a family has finished working with DHS.
  3. Engaging community partners and school personnel in our efforts to help families find their pathway to success. In our effort to link families to entire networks of services, we also help schools and community organizations connect with families. By building on relationships with families established through our work in the community and schools, we’re increasing the likelihood that when referrals are made to community partners, families will follow through. These relationships also help to develop trust between school personnel and parents, leading to reduced truancy, increased parental involvement and improved academic performance.


Pathways to Potential in the Schools
Our initial proposal for implementing a community-based approach to providing services has been based in schools throughout Michigan.

This setting was chosen for two reasons: 1) we had a similar, yet less comprehensive, model in place in many Michigan schools through our Family Resource Centers; and 2) Gov. Rick Snyder asked DHS to take a lead role in reducing truancy as part of an effort to reduce crime in Michigan’s four highest crime cities – Saginaw, Flint, Pontiac and Detroit.

Following this call to action in 2012, by the end of the 2012-13 school year, DHS placed success coaches in 124 schools in these four cities. By the end of the 2013-14 school year, we were in nearly 170 schools. And, beginning with the 2014-15 school year, we currently have 208 schools implementing the Pathways model.

6000 New Uniforms photo How it Works - Pathways Schools
In Pathways schools, DHS places employees called success coaches in schools where high numbers of families are already receiving assistance through the department. These workers work closely with school principals, social workers, attendance agents and teachers to monitor attendance and address barriers to attending school when they arise.

By using a team approach to quickly identify issues that prevent children from attending school, many Pathways schools have seen a dramatic drop in chronic absenteeism. Barriers can be as simple as a lack of a school uniform or an alarm clock, or as complex as a caregiver suffering from severe mental health issues and facing imminent homelessness.
Our employees are tireless and amazingly innovative in their drive to bust any barrier a child faces to showing up for school, ready and able to learn. In some schools, we also have additional staff on hand to expedite access to DHS programs when needed. Pathways takes a holistic approach with success coaches eager and ready to address the needs of every member of the family. Families attaining self-sufficiency is a primary goal and barriers to self-sufficiency are promptly identified and addressed.

How it Works - Community Schools
Several counties in Michigan are moving to a Community School model where the success coach works with a community school coordinator to ensure resources are in place to serve the entire school population throughout the year. While the success coach continues to focus on the individual needs of students and families, the community school coordinator works with the surrounding community to become actively involved in making sure the school has all the resources it needs to effectively educate children. Together, the success coach and community school coordinator can identify trends in barriers to attendance and mobilize the community to remove those barriers. There is an integrated focus on academics, health, social services and community development and engagement to create strong families, students and communities. There are currently 24 Pathways schools implementing the community school model. Our goal is to create at least one community school in each of our Pathways regions.

Find a Pathways School

Pathways schools map thumbnailHere's a look at the Pathways schools across Michigan. Don't see a Pathways School near you? Email us and we can tell you if any are in the works.