• June 2002
  • Vol. 3, No. 5

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States Tell How to Share Findings from Child and Family Services Reviews

The National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement has sponsored a series of teleconferences focused on child and family services reviews (CFSRs). In a recent teleconference, representatives from Arkansas and Oregon--both States that have completed their Federal CFSRs--offered their views on sharing results with the media. "Telling Your Story: Using Your Review Results with the Media," was sponsored by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement and featured Ramona Foley and Patricia Feeny from the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) and Joe Quinn from the Arkansas DHS.

Foley, the Assistant Director of the Oregon DHS, Children, Adults and Families, recommended taking the initiative by "articulating to the media that you're glad to have an opportunity to present the results." She suggested talking about how the CFSR process itself has improved, but being careful not to oversell the review--reinforcing that the review itself does not take care of problems, but it helps provide information useful to legislative planning. Foley said media coverage of the CFSRs can be used as a means to advance issues in child welfare to the State and national level.

Foley offered the following strategies for bringing the media in:

  • Understand the existing relationship between the agency and the media
  • Know what the media's perspective on the child welfare system has been
  • Be prepared to answer questions about the full range of agency activities
  • Recognize your critics, their views, and how to respond to them.

Feeny, Media Communications Officer with the Oregon DHS, said their strategy was simple: They framed their media releases to give the DHS' viewpoint. She emphasized carefully selecting someone as spokesperson who will not oversimplify the message. Like Foley, she said it was important to be proactive.

Quinn, the Director of Communications, Arkansas DHS, suggested involving communications [people] early on and the closer to the top the better. As States begin working on their performance improvement plans, he expects the media's focus to shift to the balance of budget and services, with the big question being "how will we pay for this stuff?" Quinn also said States do a poor job of telling taxpayers how money is spent. Because people don't know how the money is being used, it makes it harder to ask for more money. He emphasized the need to effectively communicate with taxpayers.

The consensus of the speakers was that getting to know the media was key. Get to know the press long before going through review--work with them sooner and build relationships. Make sure the media knows that the exit conference is not the final report or "the last word." The group also had advice on media spin--be aware that the media may "spin" your presentation, conveying a message different from what you intended.

Visit the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement at http://www.muskie.usm.maine.edu/helpkids/index.html for a listing of upcoming teleconferences.

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