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March 2011Vol. 12, No. 2The Role of Leadership in Systems of Care

Effective leadership is essential to the successful implementation of any systemwide change. A recent report from the Children's Bureau describes the role of leadership for nine grantee projects funded to implement systems of care in order to improve child welfare outcomes. The cross-site evaluation report, Leadership in the Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care Initiative, draws on qualitative data collected during interviews with key stakeholders and highlights the experiences of different grant sites.

The report discusses systems of care leadership in terms of five leadership strategies:

  • Developing a shared vision
  • Maintaining communication
  • Generating and sustaining buy-in
  • Establishing partnerships
  • Developing support

The publication also documents some of the challenges (e.g., resistance, turnover, competing priorities), as well as the lessons learned in the grantee communities. Recommendations for leaders intending to implement systems change include:

  • Assess organizational readiness for change
  • Model the behavior you want staff members to adopt, and recognize those staff who contribute to change
  • Track and use data to demonstrate an initiative's impact
  • Dedicate time to developing your vision for the initiative
  • Ensure strong and consistent leadership at all levels of the community and organization

Leadership in the Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care Initiative was developed by the Children's Bureau's National Technical Assistance and Evaluation Center for Systems of Care and is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website: (573 KB)