An effective strategy establishes the direction, expectations and values from which the workforce operates with discretion, resulting in a more empowered agency that knows where it’s going and why.This leads to stronger and better-aligned workforce behaviors and motivations, a greater degree of internal and external collaboration and greater service flexibility and innovation.


To achieve the strategy, public child welfare agencies need a clear and action-oriented plan for improving the lives of the children, youth and families they serve. They must know how to develop such a plan, make it happen and be clear about how they are impacting outcomes. They must avoid having major crises stall their progress, resolve related debates and tensions, avoid reactive or limited responses to the challenges they face and instill a sense of hope and forward progress among the staff.


This guidance provides a pathway to this reality: everyone in an agency working in synch with a clear and energizing sense of purpose, flexing when needed but then returning to the primary goals, objectives and initiatives that help improve the lives of

children, youth and families.

This Guidance Provides Answers to These and Other Questions:

  • What is strategy, why is it important and how does it impact those we serve?
  • What set of elements comprise an effective strategic plan?
  • How does an agency ensure that its strategic plans are implemented and avoid the effort resulting in “boring meetings and dusty books on a shelf?”
  • How does an agency ensure that strategy is familiar and relevant to front-line staff? 
  • How does an agency avoid dispensing with its strategy whenever a crisis hits?
  • How does an agency link its strategy to all of the departments and functions within it? 
  • How should the results of a strategy be measured and monitored?
  • How does the theme of disproportionality and disparity fit into strategic planning?
  • How does strategy work help to build a culture of empowerment and accountability?
  • How does strategy help agencies address the “either-or” tensions we sometimes confront in our work?

Why Is This Critical Area Important to the Field of Public Child Welfare?

  • Professionals in well-respected fields tell their story in ways that are compelling, build trust about their work and generate support and desired resources. They attract talented people to join in these efforts. Strategy work is the first step for both the field and individual agencies in establishing this respect and credibility.
  • There is strong public interest in and support for efforts to make children and youth safe, secure and generally healthy and well-adjusted. We must be clear and persuasive that the field and its organizations make this happen through strengthening families.
  • Strategy is not a compliance activity or an abstract exercise in wishful thinking. Effectively developed strategies areconcrete and approachable versus theoretical and overly technical.

How Will Outcomes Be Achieved For and With Children, Youth and Families?

  • Effective strategy provides the “game plan” for advancing outcomes both individually and collectively. A clear picture of the desired outcomes for children, youth and families forms the core of this plan.
  • Monitoring, decision-making and quality assurance activities within any agency need to be guided by the right set of objectives and measures. Otherwise, the agency risks doing the wrong things quite well.
  • Outcomes will not be achieved simply through good intentions, quality staff and even good front-line practice design and principles. If an agency’s assets are either micro-managed or use in too unguided a way, they won’t work towards thecollective goals, be sustainable, or result in effective daily action.

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