State to launch public-private experiment to fund human services

Illinois' troubled child welfare system could soon become an investment opportunity for charities, banks and wealthy citizens under a public-private partnership experiment set to launch Tuesday.

The project, first commissioned by former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and embraced by his Republican successor, Gov. Bruce Rauner, aims to remake the way the state delivers services to people in need.

Rather than the government paying providers directly, investors will cover the costs of coordinating and supplying services, with the potential for a return on the investment if their efforts meet goals designed to improve outcomes and save the state money. The idea is among a number of so-called social impact bond initiatives that have cropped up across the country as states search for new ways to pay for costly social services in an era of slashed budgets.

If successful, the program could become a model for transforming the way human services are delivered in Illinois, freeing providers from the uncertainty of the state budgeting process, which in some years — like this one — has left many caught in the middle of a political battle between the governor and legislature. Read more in the Chicago Tribune.