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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: reducing chronic absenteeism, education, health, safety and self-sufficiency. The Pathways to Potential approach relies on three critical elements to help clients reach their greatest potential:

DHS and school team with client at Charles H. Wright Academy in Detroit, MI
  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 students and families 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. Families and students facing barriers to success need more than just one organization in their corner. For that reason, a core element of the Pathways model is to connect families to networks of support so that each student and family can have the long term community support they need to reach their goals. Whether it's an algebra tutor for a student in the family, or a referral to Michigan Rehabilitation Services to help a disabled family member get career training, we work with the entire family to build ties to community resources that stay in place long after they've finished working with MDHHS. 
  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 chronic absenteeism, increased parental involvement, and improved academic performance.


How it Works - Pathways Schools
In Pathways schools, MDHHS places employees called success coaches in schools where high numbers of families are already receiving assistance through the department. These workers actively engage and 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 MDHHS 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

Here'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.

Pathways schools across Michigan