The overall score for this Request for Proposals is 64 percent, which makes this RFP a moderate to substantial risk for applicants.
This request for proposals (“RFP”) is for the implementation of Prevention Services, which aims to “support families in their communities, promote family stability and well-being, and reduce the need for placement in foster care.” These programs include two types of services: Family Support (formerly referred to as “General Preventive”) and Therapeutic and Treatment Models.
The Family Support programs assist families with children ages 0 to 18, if exiting foster care, up to age 21. The programs are “designed to serve families with a core focus on case management, resource navigation, economic mobility, family stability, and child safety.” Therapeutic and Treatment programs are “designed to address issues that place children at risk of foster care placement including substance abuse, trauma, family violence, and other challenges.”
The New York City Administration for Children’s Services (“ACS”) is the contracting agency, and the anticipated contract start date is July 1, 2020.
Although ACS has increased the annual funding per slot, it places large reporting, compliance, and administrative burdens on the service provider, which are not sustainable in maintaining a high quality program. The budget template asks that organizations include ongoing training, technical assistance, fidelity consulting, and administrative costs by negotiating with the model developers. The cost for training and ongoing support could make an astronomical difference depending on negotiations with the model developers and how much training each organization needs. Although ACS stated that they are working to streamline these costs, there should be more transparency as to the additional administrative costs that organizations may incur, especially those organizations that are unfamiliar with these program models and model developers.
The proposed slot amount for Family Support – Family Connections is $15,000, which is lower than the current slot amount, due to the model being converted into a case practice framework that has less rigid requirements than in the current program. Providers report the current rate does not cover the full cost of the program, and so a lower rate, even with fewer requirements, will not cover the real costs of the program. Organizations operating the current program model with positive outcomes will want to provide the same quality services and not be forced to reduce requirements because of reduced funding.
Lack of Cost Escalators
This RFP is a three-year contract with up to two three-year extensions meaning providers could potentially receive the same rate for nine years. Nonprofits struggle to meet rising costs as rates on contracts are not increased from year to year to address an increase in the costs of delivering services. With the recent Model Budget Enhancement funds, it is important to sustain the fiscal gains that were made with the current Prevention Services Programs and it is crucial that ACS include cost escalators in their contracts.
Lack of Coordination
Although ACS is the contracting agency for this RFP, there are a number of model developers that proposers, who are new to these evidence-based models, have to contact to receive more information about each program model. In addition, potential vendors are “expected to negotiate directly with developers to determine final costs” in terms of ongoing training, technical assistance, administrative costs, and fidelity consulting. Since both ACS and providers have direct access to the model developers, there is potential for a lack of coordination and it is unclear how ACS will approach accountability and evaluate quality. In addition, there are questions as to whether there will be a fair proposal evaluation process since the model developers are the most knowledgeable about the programs and have better judgement as to whether proposers are a good fit for each model.
This RFP also requires providers to use at least six different database or electronic systems to maintain case records and monitor performance: CONNECTIONS (OCFS), Preventive Organization Management Information System (ACS), the Safe Measures dashboard website, HHS Accelerator, the model developers’ systems for documenting work, and the providers’ own record keeping systems. There should be a more comprehensive data management system so that providers would not have to navigate across so many different systems.
Perplexing Catchment Areas
Proposers must submit one proposal for each program model and catchment area. However, these catchment areas are large, compose of multiple community districts, and are not contiguous. For instance, catchment area 3 in the Bronx is located in Riverdale, Mott Haven and Hunts Point which are not adjoining areas. The same goes for catchment area 4 in Queens which comprises of Astoria, Flushing, Bayside and Queens Village. We understand that ACS created these catchment areas in order to align the areas with ACS’ Division of Child Protection (DCP) zones, which is the source of the referrals with the intent of enhancing the relationship between DCP staff and nonprofit providers; but, this approach will likely present travel hardships for casework staff that will need to navigate difficult transportation systems in the outer boroughs.
Burdensome Proposal Requirements
Proposers are required to complete a Community Asset Map, which identifies links between different community associations and organizations and includes street names, waterways, parks, religious institutions, and other landmarks. However, some program models require borough-wide service, which means that organizations would have to establish Community Asset Maps for an entire borough. The indicators in the map must also be color-coded to create a visual representation of community resources. This is burdensome to organizations in preparing their proposals as it requires much effort to design the maps. The RFP also indicates that it is up to the organization’s discretion on what to include and to be creative on the asset maps; yet, the maps are a part of the evaluation of the proposal.
The HSC RFP Rater assesses the feasibility, opportunities, and risk in City and State human services procurements. Rater scores are based on the RFP and related documents available to the public via New York City’s HHS Accelerator or New York State’s Grants Gateway. The rater consists of 60 questions developed and tested by a team of procurement professionals. The questions are based on information that is necessary to help prospective proposers assess risk.
Each answer is weighted based on the degree of risk inherent in the subject of the question. Answers that imply low to moderate risk are allotted points on a lower scale range compared to higher risk questions. For compound questions, the answer to both parts must be “yes” or “not applicable” to be considered low risk. Scores are calculated by adding all the question scores together. The higher the score, the greater the risk. The scoring range is from 60 to 230, with 0 percent risk equal to a score of 60 and the maximum risk score or 100 percent equal to 230 points. Users can view the answer to each question by clicking the down arrow next to each section to expand the section.
The HSC RFP Rater is not a substitute for the due diligence necessary to inform individual organization decisions.