Practice Model


The public child welfare agency should develop and expand the use of “best practices” so each child, youth and family receives the most effective and efficient delivery of service designed to maximize individual functioning and promote community strength and stability. The developmental life cycle of the child, youth and family must be considered in the delivery of services.


Practice models may differ based on many variables, for example, geographic location, type and responsibilities of the agency, or state vs. county-based systems. Despite these variables, certain key processes need to be in place in all practice models to support the integration of the use of the model within a system. Values and principles articulated in a practice model are operationalized through an agency’s key processes. The following are the minimum key processes to have in place:

Communications Strategy

A multi-method communication strategy assists the agency in informing the staff as a whole as to the purpose, benefits and goals of the practice model and their role in its implementation. Internal staff at all levels and external stakeholders must understand the value of the model and its purposes and objectives as well as its values and principles. The casework process is transparent to the community; the community is aware of the agency’s purpose and how it i plements its strategy to achieve outcomes, including being familiar with tools and materials used to make casework decisions.


A well-established process for making decisions that is in alignment with the values linked to the practice model will help promote reliability, validity and equity in decision-making.

Quality Assurance

Internal QA processes need to reach for success markers that are behaviorally-based and include the use of “best practices” so each child, youth and family receives the most effective and efficient delivery of service designed to maximize individual functioning and promote community strength and stability. This includes assuring equitable treatment of all by staff and contracted providers. Quality assurance must be continuous, not occasional “point in time” measures.

Data Collection and Analysis

The public child welfare agency must be aware of environmental trends such as demographic shifts and political trends and must track longitudinal data across practices (public child welfare agency services, contracted services and community based services) that focus on the individual, family and community. It requires data that enable root cause analysis for what is and isn’t working in the current operation, highlight individual and unit-level performance management and “tell the story” to stakeholders and partners.

Case Management Policies and Procedures

Effective practice models result in internal policies and procedures that balance family and youth engagement while ensuring compliance with non-negotiable regulations. All phases of the service delivery system must be aligned with the vision, mission and values of the system that the practice model is serving. Supervisor involvement should occur frequently and throughout the life of a case. The value of supervisory insight and support for caseworkers when working within a practice model cannot be overstated.

Professional Development

Developing staff skills and experiences in alignment with the practice model requires both training and techniques for “learning by doing.” Proactively building staff capacity for applying the practice model can be achieved through mentoring, coaching and traditional classroom training. It is the responsibility of the agency using a particular practice model to provide staff with the approp iate training and technical assistance to develop the knowledge, skills and values needed to work in accordance with the model.

Performance Management

Evaluations and professional development plans are explicitly linked to the implementation of the practice model to promote accountability.





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