Public child welfare agencies need a clear, well-understood and action-oriented plan and related methods 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 condition their agency to work on a range of improvements every day, at all levels, and in all functions. They must link all priorities for change and improvement to their desired practice model, reinforcing that model at every turn. They must avoid having major obstacles and points of chronic resistance 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.
While there are always differences between what an agency aspires to do and what it actually does at a particular point in its development, effective plans and efforts to change and improve approach current limits in budgets, technology, programs, policies and research as a “two way street.” Agencies must be both working within their current environmental limits as well as influencing these limits to move in a positive, evolutionary direction over time.Agencies that are evolving in this way will experience a pattern of change that over time resembles an “upward spiral,” moving from more reform-oriented change and improvement to more innovative and progressive change, at times interrupted or delayed by temporary setbacks, disruptions and plateaus: