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Strategic Planning for Child Welfare Agencies

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Managers of child welfare agencies today are facing severe fiscal pressures and demands for accountability from state leaders and legislators, and from federal funding agencies. To justify their budgets, build public support and satisfy funding sources, child welfare agencies need to continually improve their performance. A strong strategic planning process is a powerful management technique that agencies can use to establish and move towards improved outcomes for children and families.
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Content Preview
Strategic
Planning
for Child Welfare Agencies
Elizabeth Frizsell
Mar y O’Brien
Lynda Arnold
National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement
A ser vice of the Children’s Bureau, U.S. Depar tment of Health & Human Ser vices

Strategic Planning
for Child Welfare Agencies
Elizabeth Frizsell
Mary O’Brien
Lynda Arnold
January, 2004
National Child Welfare Resource Center
for Organizational Improvement
Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service
University of Southern Maine
PO Box 15010, 400 Congress Street
Portland, Maine 04112
1-800-HELP KID
www.muskie.usm.maine.edu/helpkids
A service of the Chidren’s Bureau, US Department of Health & Human Services

Acknowledgements
We gratefully acknowledge Patsy Buida at the Children’s Bureau for her support and her will-
ingness to review and comment on drafts of this publication. Vicky Wright at the Children’s
Bureau also provided detailed comments.
A number of people at the Resource Center provided critical help. Mary Colombo worked
tirelessly on early versions of this document, did extensive background research and pro-
vided helpful comments on drafts of this document. Susan Kanak and Peter Watson reviewed
drafts and provided useful insights on the content and format of the document. Anne Bernard
provided extensive, thorough editing and designed and produced the graphics and the
final document.
We are indebted to staff from a number of states for talking with us about strategic planning,
and/or for reviewing draft descriptions of their work: Izabel Bowers from Alaska, Katherine
Guffey from Arizona, Keith Zirkle from Delaware, John L. Murphy from Washington, DC,
Lloyd Malone from El Paso County, Colorado, Krystine L. Lange from Iowa, Stephanie
Beasley-Fehrmann from Indiana, Paula Ellis, Jaymee Metzenthin and Sandra Hazlett from
Kansas, Mary Ellen Nold and Marcia Morganti from Kentucky, Gloria Thornton Salters from
Mississippi, John Mader from Nebraska, Sara Mims from North Carolina, Dennis Bean from
Oklahoma, Joan Van Hull and Candace Novak from Ohio and Richard Anderson from Utah.
We are grateful for their assistance.
Kris Sahonchik, Project Director
Elizabeth Frizsell, Author
Mary O’Brien, Author
Lynda Arnold, Author

Contents
Introduction
1
Part I: Strategic Planning
3
What is Strategic Planning
3
Defining the Terms
4
Select Format
6
Why Do Strategic Planning?
7
Part II: Strategic Planning: How To Do It
9
Stage 1: Preparation
10
Visioning
10
Guiding Beliefs for Alaska’s Foster and Adoptive Recruitment Plan
11
Mississippi’s Visioning
12
Utah’s Practice Model and Performance Milestone Plan
13
El Paso County’s Vision and Guiding Principles
14
Assessment
15
Conducting a Statewide Assessment in a County-Administered System – Ohio
17
Conducting a Statewide Assessment in Arizona
18
Develop and Implement a Planning Process
19
Oklahoma – Engaging Tribes in Planning
20
Engaging Stakeholders in the Planning Process – Kansas
21
Mississippi’s Planning Structure
24
Kentucky’s Planning Process and Structure
26
Implementing a Planning Process
27
Stage 2: Plan
28
Develop the Plan
28
Prioritize
29
Answer these questions
29
Draft Plan
34
Finalize Plan
34
Developing a Plan in Indiana
34
Collaborating with Tribes in Oklahoma
35
Developing a Plan in Kentucky
35
Writing a Program Improvement Plan in DC
36

Stage 3: Implement the Plan
37
Communicate the Plan
37
Distributing a Plan in Nebraska
38
Communicating the Performance Milestone Plan in Utah
38
Manage the Plan
39
Supervise Implementation
39
Developing Local Plans in Oklahoma
41
Developing Regional Plans in Kansas
42
Monitor and Report Progress
43
Implementation and Monitoring of the Program Improvement Plan in Delaware
44
Modifying Quality Assurance Systems to Track Progress in North Carolina
45
Stage 4: Revise
46
Review Progress
46
Reconvene Planning Process and Revise the Plan
46
Reviewing and Revising the Plan in Mississippi
47
Reviewing and Revising the Plan in Utah
47
Bibliography
49
Attachment 1: Federal Requirements
51
Attachment 2: National Standards for Strategic Planning
59
Attachment 3: Resources
63
Attachment 4: State Contacts
69
Attachment 5: From the Literature
71
Attachment 6: Planning Structure Examples
73
Attachment 7: Strategic Planning Process Checklist
77

Introduction
Managers of child welfare agencies today are facing severe fiscal pressures and demands for
accountability from state leaders and legislators, and from federal funding agencies. To justify
their budgets, build public support and satisfy funding sources, child welfare agencies need to
continually improve their performance. A strong strategic planning process is a powerful man-
agement technique that agencies can use to establish and move towards improved outcomes
for children and families.
Child welfare agencies use a number of different planning processes that have the potential to
improve agency performance. These include:
• The five year Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP)
• The Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) Program Improvement Plans (PIPs)
• The IV E Review Program Improvement Plan (PIP)
• The IV E training plan
• The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) plan
• The Statewide Foster and Adoption Recruitment Plan
• The five year Chaffee Independent Living Plan
• Plans developed in response to settlement agreements or consent decrees
• Other integrated state or agency strategic plans
By laying out a general process for strategic planning, this guide is intended to help child
welfare agencies produce effective plans. The National Child Welfare Resource Center for
Organizational Improvement promotes integrated planning, and encourages states to develop
integrated CFSPs, or agency plans that incorporate as many of the agency’s other plans as
possible. We also are aware that the requirement to produce PIPs is an immediate planning
challenge for states, and that many states have done strong work in response to this chal-
lenge. This guide highlights the federal requirements for the planning processes for the CFSP
and the PIPs, and draws many examples from these types of plans.
The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement has been provid-
ing technical assistance to states involved in strategic planning and has developed a frame-
work for strategic planning with four distinct stages:
• Prepare
• Plan
• Implement
• Revise
1

After discussing strategic planning – what it is and why we do it – the guide describes the
four stages of the process in detail and illustrates each stage with examples from state and
county practice.
A number of attachments provide additional detail and background. These include:
Attachment 1:
federal planning requirements
Attachment 2:
standards on planning developed by national organizations,
Attachment 3:
resources on strategic planning, including technical assistance and
written materials
Attachment 4:
state and county contacts for planning examples highlighted in this
document
Attachment 5:
quotes on aspects of strategic planning from the literature
Attachment 6:
planning structure examples
Attachment 7:
checklist – strategic planning process
2

PART 1 Strategic Planning
What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is a continual process for improving organizational performance by devel-
oping strategies to produce results. It involves looking at the overall direction of where the
agency wants to go, assessing the agency’s current situation, and developing and implement-
ing approaches for moving forward. Planning is strategic when it focuses on what the agency
wants to accomplish, and on moving the agency towards these larger goals. By constantly fo-
cusing attention on a shared vision and on more specific goals and objectives, strategic plan-
ning has the potential to permeate the culture of the agency, becoming a tool for creating
systemic change. Leaders at all levels – directors, managers, supervisors and caseworkers, as
well as external partners – are engaged in developing a sense of direction and in identifying
priorities.
Effective strategic planning is an active partnership in which agency leaders work
collaboratively with a broad range of staff and stakeholders both inside and external to the
agency to define the agency’s vision and goals, and to develop and implement plans to meet
them. Strategic planning needs to be led by agency decision makers, engage managers and
staff at all levels, and actively involve a broad range of stakeholders.
Strategic planning is not a one-time event but an ongoing process for systemic change that in-
volves four stages. Agencies need to prepare to plan by visioning, conducting assessments,
and implementing a planning process. Then they can plan, by developing, writing and finaliz-
ing the plan. It is critical to implement the plan by managing, supervising, and monitoring
progress on the plan. Finally, the plan needs to be revised to keep it current and active,
which involves updating the plan as needed. Throughout the process, ongoing communica-
tion of the plan is critical.
Prepare
Revise
Plan
Implement
3

This continuous cycle is similar to the casework process, such as child and family assessment
and case planning. The strength of the family case plan or service plan is dependent on the
quality of the assessment of the family’s needs and the strategies that have been developed in
the plan for building on the family’s strengths with appropriate services and resources. Rou-
tine case reviews help to monitor the implementation and progress of the plan and also assess
the effectiveness of the plan in helping families reach their outcomes and goals. If the plan is
not helping, then it is time to reassess and revise the strategies of the plan. Just as a strong
case planning process is critical to achieving individual child and family goals, a strong strate-
gic planning process is critical to achieving agency goals.
Defining the Terms
We have all experienced the confusion that results when a planning process uses undefined
or inaccurate terms. Sometimes what one person says in no way resembles what another per-
son hears. When this happens in an organization, the confusion can lead to frustration, misun-
derstanding and mistakes. When it happens in the strategic planning process, it can lead to
wasted effort and even failure of the plan.
Child welfare agencies use a variety of terms to describe the content of strategic plans. For
example, some use “goals” and others use “outcomes” to describe the aim or result of the
agency’s work. In the Annual Report to Congress, the federal government calls “reduce recur-
rence of abuse and neglect” an outcome, while in the CFSR process it is a “performance indi-
cator” of progress towards a broader outcome of children being protected from abuse and
neglect. Use of terms is guided by the context in the agency—the federal requirements for the
planning process, the terms that are required by state processes or laws, or the terms that are
familiar to those involved in the planning process.
To avoid misunderstanding and confusion planners should choose terms early on, define
them, and then use these terms consistently throughout the planning process. Once terms are
defined, the group needs to ensure that everyone understands, and agrees to use the same
terms.
Those involved in strategic planning in an agency can use any set of terms as long as they are
defined clearly and used consistently throughout the planning process. The set of terms and
definitions that we use for the content of a strategic plan, and examples to illustrate the terms,
is detailed in Figure 1—Strategic Planning Terms.
4

Figure 1
Strategic Planning Terms
TERMS
ONE DEFINITION
EXAMPLE
OUTCOMES
Desired results or expected
Children are safely maintained in their own
ant
consequence
homes whenever possible and appropriate.
w
e
GOALS
Aim, purpose, direction or
The state will increase the percentage of
t
w
priorities of plan that can
cases where children are safely maintained
a
be measured
in their own homes whenever possible and
Wh
to accomplish
appropriate.
e
STRATEGIES
Broad or overarching efforts to be
Implement intensive home-based family
undertaken to achieve the agency
preservation services statewide to increase
goals or outcomes
the number of children who are able to
remain safely in their own homes
OBJECTIVES
Measurable steps towards ac-
Expand existing intensive home-based
complishment of goal or out-
family preservation services in at least 2
come within a specific timeframe
counties in each region by January 1, 2004
will do to get ther
ACTION
Specific actions that will be
Request for proposals will be issued in at
e
STEPS
undertaken to accomplish the
least 2 counties in all regions for intensive
w
strategies or objectives and
home-based family preservation services
at
demonstrate progress toward
by April 1, 2003.
the goals and/or outcomes
Wh
MEASURES
Evidence of achievement of the
goals and/or outcomes. There are
two types of measures:
(For Family Preservation Services)
Quantitative Measures:
Quantitative Measure:The percentage
Indicators of progress that can be
of children safely maintained in their own
expressed in numerical terms,
homes will increase by 5% (from the
counted or compared on a scale
baseline of 85% to 90%) within 24 months.
r
ess
w if
Qualitative Measures:
Qualitative Measure: Request for
og
Indicators of progress that are
proposals for family preservation services
process oriented and difficult to
issued for Region I by April 2004.
capture in numerical terms
will kno
e
BENCHMARKS
Interim and measurable indicators
Quantitative Benchmarks: A 5% in-
that will be assessed to determine if
crease in the number of families receiving
e making pr
w w
progress is being made toward
family preservation services in Region 1 by
ar
achieving the established goal.
January 1, 2004. Baseline measures for
Ho
comparison would be the current number
we
of families receiving family preservation
services in Region I as of January 1, 2003.
Qualitative Benchmarks: Contractual
Family Preservation services implemented
in Region I by January 1, 2004.
5

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