Practice Model


Implementation of the practice model is typically the biggest aspect of the challenge of changing an organizational culture and organizational practices. Nationally, implementation has occurred through many different plans and processes, typically depending upon the structure of the organization (state or county administered), ability to use strategic supports (such as training), and relationships with partners and stakeholders.


Regardless of any of these variables, there are certain aspects of change management which are evidence based and have been demonstrated to provide successful results when organizations have committed the capacity, resources, and time for the change to occur.


These strategies for implementation are detailed within the Change Management domain of the Positioning Public Child Welfare Guidance and do not need to be fully repeated here. The Change Management domain provides leaders with necessary guidance for general change management, but also the key processes to use to advance the practice model as the defined desired future state of their organization and begin to take steps toward implementation.


This process for implementation will be most successful when the practice model is developed in a manner that is specific enough to be clear and well defined to those planning for implementation and general enough to be made operational through practices at the local level using local knowledge and expertise. Once a base practice model of values, principles, standards and skills is in place, implementation work through specific strategies, practices, communications and training can  begin.


In support of the change management guidance, it is most important to note that for successful practice model implementation to occur, the following elements must also be in place:

  • Communication plans 
  • Resource development 
  • Capacity building plans 
  • Role clarity
  • Monitoring and evaluation plans
  • Tools that support the use of the practice model in the field

With the proper plans, tools, resources, and staff “buy in” in place, a well written, clear, and easily communicated practice model can serve as the anchor for practice improvement and ultimately improved child welfare outcomes for the future.


Communication Plan

The practice model must be communicated to staff and stakeholders on an ongoing basis and demonstrated continuously through daily behaviors. For staff, communication begins with new worker training and continues through performance management.Working within the construct of the practice model should be positively reinforced and behaviors not consistent with the practice model should be identified and corrected. For stakeholders, communication begins with the sharing of information such as strategic plans and budgets and continues with ongoing transparency of how the work gets completed in the agency.


Resource Development

Resource development includes more than just hiring new staff. For  practice model to be effective, non-personnel resources will have to be dedicated to achieve desired outcomes.


Non-personnel resources include but are not limited to the following:


  • Increased use of technology to complement the implementation of an effective practice model. Some technology resources would include: a SACWIS (or other statewide alternative) system that is user friendly and information friendly, laptops and cell phones for staff and web-based communications that are available to internal and external stakeholders. These items willassist caseworkers in being more available and in better communication with families and supervisors.
  • Capacity to convene groups that allows for greater input and collaboration among those involved in service delivery.
  • Communication strategy that will assist the agency in informing the local community as to the purpose, benefits and goals of the practice model.
  • Availability of resources for workers to perform their job, such as state vehicles, office space that is usable, functional chairs, office supplies and effective lines of communication.
  • Visitation space in the community.
  • For the practice model to be successful at the operations level, front line staff has to commit to and participate in ongoing training and tech ical assistance for skill development and development of an understanding of desired outcomes and bestpractice models.



Effective Individual and Agency Capacities

To implement the practice model, the agency must be resourced with a workforce in alignment with the strategy and with the ability to achieve desired outcomes. The workforce would be well trained in applying a theoretical model of engagement and the principles in the practice model along with applicable laws and regulations. To be effective, the agency places an emphasis on quality supervision that develops workforce capacity and supports the mission, values and principles of the agency’s practice model.Frontline staff have individual development plans that support development of the knowledge, skills and values needed to implement the practice model. Workforce must be developed to allow for appropriate workload and have the necessary technological and administrative support staff in place.The infrastructure is built to support the monitoring of the implementation of the practice model.


Roles and Responsibilities of Staff and Stakeholders

Staff accountable for the day-to-day operations and actual implementation of the practice model as well as stakeholders that reflect the cultural identity of the community served must be involved from the start of practice model development. This promotes buy-in, ongoing commitment and results in a more effective practice model that will meet the needs of the specific community and families served.


The following is basic list of critical stakeholders to involve:


• Family and youth              • Public human service agencies       • Attorneys

• Community leaders          • Law enforcement                                • Advocacy groups

• Contracted providers       • Education                                             • Tribes

• Judges                                • Medical community                            • Ombudsman

• Elected officials                 • University partners                         • Faith­based community

• Community at large          • Juvenile probation                             • Media


By fully engaging those most critical to the process, the result will be a well-developed practice that supports positive outcomes for children, youth and families.


Stakeholders need and value two-way communications with the agency. Stakeholders further value appreciation of input by the agency, effective use of resources, competent and committed staff, transparency from the agency and agency leaders and commitment to the values and principles within the practice model.


Roles and Responsibilities of Staff and Stakeholders 

“Supporting the well-being of children, youth and families is a shared government and community responsibility” is a guiding principle for a practice model. Therefore, it is public child welfare leadership’s responsibility to accurately inform stakeholders of the success and challenges in the implementation of the practice model and it is the responsibility of all key stakeholders to become informed and actively participate in the development, implementation, monitoring and continuous improvement of the practice model.



Agency responsibilities:

  • Leadership guides and informs practice model development and reflects the values and principles in the practice model in its decisions.
  • Management chooses, develops and oversees the implementation of key processes, policies and tools that support the values and principles of the practice model.
  • Supervisors and frontline staff make case decisions in the delivery of services that support the values and principles of the practice model



Stakeholder responsibilities:

  • Participate in practice model development, providing input and feedback as the process unfolds.
  • Provide ongoing feedback regarding implementation of the practice model at all levels of the organization.
  • Agencies that provide services to families and youth through contracts with the public agency and community partners know the practice model of the public child welfare agency and can connect it to their own agency strategy and daily key processes and operations.

Youth and families responsibilities:

  • Participate in individual family assessment and planning processes with public child welfare staff.
  • Provide honest input and feedback to public child welfare staff based on real life experiences, strengths and concerns. Families, youth and community stakeholders know the core values, principles and standards of practice of the practice model and their connection to service provision by the agency.

Success would be demonstrated by all stakeholders (children, youth, fami ies and community) working in an integrated way with direct service public child welfare staff to achieve agreed upon outcomes.




Monitoring, Evaluation and Updating of the Practice Model

Monitoring and evaluation will occur through the use of continuous improvement processes. Continuous improvement as a well- practiced process and “way of doing business” at all organizational levels is essential to making decisions around the effectiveness of the practice model. Continuous improvement can be used to assess the quality and impact of implementation of the service array developed from the practice model. Good continuous improvement defines and uses sponsor groups, continuous improvement teams and working committees made up of staff from all 

levels of the organization, families, youth and community stakeholders.


Outcome measurement will require a conscious effort to define measurable outcomes and collect data. Quantitative and qualitative data related to the outcomes in the practice model are collected, analyzed and used by the agency to make changes, both rapid and long-term, to policy, process, products and services.


Once developed, a practice model will be based in good practice and strong values and serves as an anchor to hold onto in times of change. The practice model that appropriately sets forth principles, values and capacities necessary to accomplish the mission serves as a touchstone for stability in the face of changes in leadership and other crises; it does not change along with them.


Practice models are unique to your community. Consideration for updating the practice model should be based on the following:

  • the needs of families change, 
  • data are gathered,
  • new knowledge emerges,
  • information provided by children, youth and families suggests the change,
  • information suggests that the workforce doesn’t believe the practice model speaks to the current reality, 
  • stakeholders and the community change,
  • social trends emerge or change, 
  • technology changes,
  • desired outcomes change, or
  • outcomes determine that the practice model is fundamentally flawed.


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