The strategy is the overall approach which maximizes the performance of the agency. An effective strategy will establish and communicate the goals and objectives of the agency to achieve positive outcomes for children, youth and families. An agency’s strategy is manifested through a strategic plan which lays out in a clear and orderly flow the answers to a range of questions about how an agency will achieve outcomes. It tells this story in a way that is comprehensive and concrete, yet collaborative and flexible, much like a “playbook” does for a sports team that must prepare for games without expecting everything to go as imagined. The feel of the plan should be portable, adaptable and user-friendly so it is accessed continuously and refined often as agencies learn by doing their work and planning more strategically over time.
The strategic plan helps to communicate with staff, stakeholders, partners and the community about who you are, what you intend to do and why, how you will do it and what you need to succeed. This may result in stronger partnerships, more secure funding and other forms of support. It may also result in better orientation of new staff, better planning of new initiatives, clarification of roles and expectations throughout the organization and promoting an overall positive image of the agency and its work.
A well-developed strategic plan will include the ongoing monitoring of racial, ethnic, or other forms of disproportionality as a “litmus test” that must be carefully studied for its root disparities. Disparity is defined as the unfair or biased treatment of those being served and it may be occurring with or without disproportionality in evidence. Disparity can occur at any point within an agency’s key processes, from community outreach to intake to casework-related decisions to services offered. Disparity can also occur in the environment within which children, youth and families live and work through unfair treatment and limited access to quality services and opportunities. If disparity is in fact occurring, then the agency can respond more proactively and
thoughtfully to reduce or eliminate it, with the full force of the strategic plan behind the effort. Once disparity within an agency is being reduced, the agency can focus on its potential role of helping to reduce it within the children, youth and family’s general environment.
PPCWG recommends that public child welfare agencies include in their leadership platforms, policies, operations, casework practices and strategic partnership platforms that the agency treats families fairly and justly, avoiding or overcoming disparate treatment whenever it has been identified as a risk or a reality. PPCWG also recommends that public child welfare agencies include in their values an emphasis on equity, where all children, youth and families have access to and
receive unbiased treatment and services. Agencies should reinforce this value by supporting staff to learn enough about each child, youth and family that comes to the attention of the agency so that any one aspect of a person is understood as part of a complex, whole and unique individual.
Budgets and finance, technology, policies and regulations and current research findings play a double role in a strategic plan. The agency should be both working within their realistic limits and influencing those limits to shift in a positive direction over time. For example, a plan might lay out initiatives within current budgetary or technology guidelines and include an initiative to make a better case for increased or reallocated resources over time. Or, front line practice initiatives might include both adopting well-researched practices and testing new and innovative practices at the grassroots level.
Early on in strategic planning, an agency should be very careful not to take on more efforts than it has the capacity to handle successfully. As these successes are experienced and an agency’s current capacity and readiness for change grows, a highly developed strategic plan would connect to every important agency department or function and each important organizational topic. For example, administrative departments and functions like Human Resources, and Information Technology are often left out of strategic planning efforts, yet they are vital to implementing most initiatives and supporting most objectives. And if employees are highlighting topics like supervision, turnover, training and development, trust, time management and communication, these would all find their place in a highly-developed playbook.
In many agencies, the public child welfare-specific strategic plan would be developed in alignment with a broader agency or even community strategy being developed. In other agencies, the public child welfare planning effort might be setting the pace for broader strategic planning around it. The challenge is to balance the drive and ambition of public child welfare with a realistic and patient appraisal of how quickly and effectively coworkers, partners and others might collaborate on joint initiatives.
As you read the following, please open the Strategic Plan which serves as a template that includes the sections and questions that your agency might address:
Major Projects or Work Plans and Commitments
Performance Measures, Timeframes and Goverance