• July/August 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 6

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Desk Guide to Building a High-Performing Agency

Changes in child welfare research, data, and emerging evidence often require child welfare and other systems to periodically reevaluate what is working, what is not, and what improvements are needed to hone best practices and provide quality services to children and families. The Annie E. Casey Foundation published 10 Practices: A Child Welfare Leader's Desk Guide to Building a High-Performing Agency to help agency leaders and other partners in their endeavors to institute positive, effective, cost-conscious change; ensure quality; and, ultimately, commit to better outcomes for children and youth through a continuous improvement process.

The guide serves as a structured, yet flexible, roadmap for assessing an agency's strengths, identifying opportunities for adjustments and/or improvements, and creating an achievable plan to make these changes. Authors recommend that high-performing agencies focus on fine-tuning their practices and underperforming agencies begin with "the basics," such as tracking and measuring outcomes and effectively managing caseworker caseloads. Further guidance and step-by-step recommendations for agencies are outlined in each of the following 10 best practices sections:

  1. Focus on Child and Family Outcomes
  2. Emphasize Human Resources, Training, and Supervision
  3. Develop a Broad Service Array
  4. Measure and Address Racial and Other Disparities
  5. Use a Practice Model
  6. Develop Competent Front-End Decision-Making
  7. Promote Expert Casework
  8. Make Family Relationships and Permanence the Focus of Casework
  9. Meet Teens' Needs for Family and Other Supports
  10. Build a Healthy Caregiver Network

Each section is accompanied by a table to help agencies assess their performance in each practice area. To read more, access 10 Practices: A Child Welfare Leader's Desk Guide to Building a High-Performing Agency, Part One, on the Annie E. Casey Foundation's website at http://www.aecf.org/resources/10-practices-part-one/.

Additional research, references, tools, and appendices related to the 10 practices of high-performing agencies are presented in Part Two, available at http://www.aecf.org/resources/10-practices-part-two/.

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