Skip to main content
Boston College School of Social Work
Professor Ruth McRoy of the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work
An Inclusive Perspective

Ruth McRoy, Donahue/DiFelice Endowed Professor of Social Work, is recognized for her groundbreaking and innovative research in the areas of child welfare, adoption, and diversity.  more »

From Research to Outreach

For renowned scholar and School of Social Work professor Margaret Lombe, social work research is only as good as the lives it saves.  more »


Transforming Bureaucracies to Fit Client Needs

Far too many Americans work exhausting hours trying to meet the healthcare needs of a disabled or elderly friend or relative while juggling full-time jobs and families of their own.

According to recent statistics, over 7 million Americans provide "informal" (unpaid) care for elderly family members who have difficulty dressing, bathing or cooking for themselves. Over 75% of Americans who need long-term care assistance rely solely on unpaid family members and friends, who sacrifice an average of $109 a day in lost wages.

For Professor Kevin Mahoney, Director of the National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services (NRCPDS), these numbers prove that the current system is broken. It's true that Medicaid will pay for personal assistance, but only through approved home care agencies. Mahoney has found that many elderly would rather forgo assistance than rely on a complete stranger for such intimate tasks as helping them dress or use the bathroom.

Mahoney, who has made a career out of bending bureaucracies to meet the needs of the populations they're supposed to serve, believes he's found a way to help states design services that give people with disabilities the quality of life they deserve. The National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services is the leading provider of technical assistance, education, policy analysis and research for publicly funded, participant-directed programs, with the goal of improving the lives of people of all ages with all types of disabilities. The Center builds on the lessons learned from the successful Cash & Counseling program, to provide programs with information and assistance that leads to quality programs for participants.

Participant direction is an approach to receiving support in which a person with a disability (elder or non elder) decides how he or she receives long-term goods and services. This may also mean the individual directs the use of an individual budget.  The individual decides how to use their budget, including the ability to hire workers and/or purchase goods and other types of services that make living in the community possible and accessible. Participant direction is meant to support people with a wide range of disabilities.

The NRCPDS builds on their work as the National Program Office for the Cash & Counseling program , developed in 15 states as an innovative alternative to the traditional Medicaid model. The NRCPDS launched in April 2009 with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Administration on Aging, and the Office for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

Mahoney's career embodies the overarching mission of social work, to advocate compassionately for clients and shape the systems that serve them. In 2007, his lifelong work earned him the prestigious Flynn Prize for Social Work Research. Learn more about the NRCPDS.