This article focuses on the range of choices and factors affecting state level decision making about how human services are to be delivered. In light of the dual thrusts of decentralization and privatization, the viability of public-private partnerships through contracting for services is explored. Among the significant factors affecting decisions about alternative forms of service delivery are: political and fiscal preferences; the strength of organized labor; the role and availability of the private service sector and history with purchase of service. The advantages and disadvantages attributed to a contracting model for delivering services are unlikely to be argued from an empirical base. Rather, the relative influence of various actors, ideologies and practices will affect states' decisions about the scope and range of contracting and the degree to which there will be reliance on the private sector.

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