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Human Services Case Studies

Posted on: February 23, 2023

PACE Professional Development Implementation

Professional development


Maricopa County Human Services Department FY22’s PACE initiative is defined as the advancement and fostering of staff professional growth, targeting approaches which focus on strength-based, holistic coaching practices. PACE is a professional development program aimed at setting the “PACE” or the tone for the Department. It is a program which determines the needs of HSD staff and designs appropriate professional development, supports and tools to better meet the needs of their clients. PACE is a relationship and strength-based practice designed toward improving long-term whole-family functioning and its objective is to integrate meaningful relationship-based services that support TRANSFORMATIONAL whole-family well-being. PACE enables its objective by;

  • Front-line staff helping clients take the lead identifying goals for their defined family
  • Focusing on the family holistically rather than just one person or what is defined by a funding stream/program
  • Utilizing different approaches and perspectives to improving outcomes for families

Making a shift from a transactional interaction with clients to a transformational approach can be difficult to accomplish, but, necessary in order to;

  • Offer better ways to assist clients
  • Have a greater impact on families
  • Implement proactive prevention
  • Exercise evidence-based best practices
  • Maximize front-line staff engagement

Maricopa County Human Services Department is committed to PACE as an effective tool that is central to the delivery of high-quality support services that foster strong client outcomes. The Department utilized research-based staff assessment, coordinated coaching strategies and trainings to support the professional development of HSD front-line staff. The model built upon staff’s knowledge, experience, and competencies to improve client-based relationships and their outcomes, leadership support, tools and resources, breaking down intergovernmental silos and engaging partners.

Maricopa County Human Services Department’s PACE professional development implementation team measured its front-line staff’s increased PACE engagement, confidence and knowledge through a series of online pre and post self-assessments. Maricopa County (MC) Human Services Department (HSD) also captured the impact of the PACE experience through the eyes of its clients through online evaluations.

Problem or Need for the Program

Maricopa County Human Services Department PACE professional development implementation incorporated comprehensive trainings for front-line staff to mitigate an array of gaps experienced during transitioning to a PACE mindset and implementing its approaches. These gaps were found in:

  • Front-line staff knowledge and confidence in foundational understanding of Trauma Informed Care, Executive Function skills, coaching approaches and client readiness
  • Leadership support of new Family-Centered Coaching approaches
  • Front-line staff empowerment to use coaching tools and resources
  • Silos within Maricopa County Human Services Department’s Divisions
  • Intergovernmental engagement
  • Client empowerment
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Professional development tools to meet goals
  • Staff support during COVID 19 pandemic
  • Customer service approaches for clients under crisis

Description of the Program

Maricopa County (MC) Human Services Department’s (HSD’s) PACE professional development plan outlined the strategies for assessing, planning, and implementing effective coaching strategies that supports client centered service delivery. The plan included the structure and goal setting aspect of the coaching strategies through practice-based coaching and appropriate follow-up activities to ensure new learning impacted staff skills and effectiveness. The Department established a comprehensive implementation model to provide staff with shared vision to successfully execute their job duties through stronger alignment with the use of Family-Centered strategies. The implementation model is designed to provide staff with multiple levels of support and to help them attain successful performance. The implementation plan included professional development, self-assessment, coaching, supervision and a tiered system for assessing and meeting ongoing professional development needs.

The focus of PACE approaches is to hold a client-led method which allows coaches to address the client’s whole support system and their defined families to determine client strengths, which help clients and their families to recognize and own their power and agency.

MC HSD developed an introduction to PACE that utilizes a combination of online and in person trainings, access to resources, self-assessments and refresher activities that influence how staff interact with their clients. These practices guide the day-to-day work with clients to ensure respectful relationship-based outcomes. They also align with the vision and mission of HSD and performance expectations. HSD staff completed all of the following trainings and their supervisors received staff surveys and utilized outcomes to follow up and inform staff of any self-identified gaps.

Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

A workgroup (Dream Weavers) comprised of staff from every division in HSD, attended Transition To Success (TTS) training and earned TTS Coaching Certifications. The workgroup developed and rolled out DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) virtual trainings; DEI Podcast, DEI Workshop, DEI Podcast II (Pending). The workgroup developed and offered DEI Impact surveys to staff and leadership. DEI Impact Survey offering to community is pending.

The implementation plan included consistent online surveys and self-assessment tools to ensure staff met all PACE competencies and to foster a sense of community with staff purposely and mindfully aligned with PACE approaches and HSD departmental goals. SurveyGizmo surveys were completed pre and post professional development trainings showing progression in staff’s learning. SurveyGizmo surveys were also sent to clients to assess their coaching experiences and the gains they had accomplished as a result of the services offered to them by MC HSD.

This comprehensive professional development training and assessment plan resulted in a more cohesive department whose individual divisions now work and refer clients cross-divisionally to better assist their clients and their clients’ families. It enhanced and empowered leadership resulting in a supported staff and improved collaboration between middle management and their direct reports. FCC tools and resources provided during PACE trainings allowed for staff to feel equipped to develop coaching relationships with their clients. MC HSD became known as an innovative subject matter expert in how to implement holistic approaches in their service model, successfully engaging local and regional partners, including providing wide-ranging training to their employees. The commitment from MC HSD to make a greater positive impact in the community they serve culminated in clients reporting gains in a variety of areas of their lives, such as, parenting skills, job seeking skills and job training and education attainment.

The Cost of the Program

The cost of such a program is going to vary significantly by jurisdiction and will depend on the number of staff involved, scope of trainings, coaching sessions, webinars, supplies provided, and other costs. Due to the many unknowable costs associated with implementing this professional development model (e.g. how much time trained staff devoted to webinars, trainings, reading material) Maricopa County cannot give an exact cost to the program. However, the Department of Human Services prioritizes professional development for its employees and, because of that, this program has resulted in minimal costs for aspects such as equipment, travel, and supplies needed to conduct this work with no additional staffing needed. Other jurisdictions should compare these costs with the benefits of significantly better trained and more knowledgeable staff capable of providing significantly better service to clients.

Results/Success of the Program

The Maricopa County (MC) Human Services Department (HSD) implementation of comprehensive PACE professional development plan resulted in many departmental shared achievements.

Professional development of staff – Over the course of our fiscal year, the PACE program utilized a phased training approach to ensure gradual skills acquisition across the department. Major accomplishments include:

  • Development of 7 in-person workshops for 130 direct-service staff
  • Implementation of all 7 workshops resulting in 40+ sessions held
  • Creation and administration of 3 online trainings for all 320 HSD employees
  • 89% of staff stated that by the end of each training they understood the concepts taught
  • 82% of staff stated that the trainings will help them better understand, interact with and support HSD clients
  • Roll-out of PACE trainings to all HSD staff members (approximately 400 staff members)
  • Building of curriculum addressing pandemic crisis to support staff

Leadership support – To drive and sustain a coaching culture, the PACE workgroup organized an ongoing series of Coaching Club sessions for direct-service managers and supervisors. Leveraging a cohort structure has:

  • Created the opportunity for HSD management to collectively develop a coaching mindset, practice new skills, and brainstorm implementation processes
  • Translated into management that is empowered to integrate and adapt coaching practices and tools that best support front-line staff and clients

Tools and resources – As staff cultivated their coaching skills throughout the year, a wide array of supportive tools and resources were developed and provided. The available tools and resources aid clients and staff in developing a coaching relationship that places the client in the lead and the coach in a supporting role. Staff have been equipped with:

  • 5 tools to assist clients in setting and achieving individual and family goals
  • Over a dozen resources designed to guide and foster a coaching philosophy and approach

Engaging partners – HSD knows that mobilizing systemic change requires a commitment to developing, fostering, and championing community partnerships. HSD dedicated time, resources, and staff to train both local and regional partners in PACE approaches and components. HSD has:

  • Provided full curriculum training to the workforce program of the Arizona Department of Economic Security as well as Workforce Solutions Borderplex in El Paso, Texas
  • Held presentations and workshops with participants from local governments, school districts, and non-profit organizations

Client empowerment – The ultimate goal of the PACE professional implementation plan was to increase opportunities of greater impact to the community it assists. Through this effort we able to cross-help clients to support them in reaching their self-determined goals. Clients surveyed reported;

  • 65% are working toward a certification or credential while participating in our program
  • 88% felt supported by their coach
  • On a scale of 1 – 5, clients averaged a 4.5 scale on confidence they felt achieving their career goals with the assistance of our program

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