• Dec 2003/Jan 2004
  • Vol. 4, No. 10

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Keys to Success for State Program Improvement Plans

For the past two years, State child welfare agencies have been engaged with the Children's Bureau in implementing the Federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs), a new initiative to help States assess child welfare administration, practice, and results for children and families. This approach begins with a statewide assessment, followed by an intensive onsite review. Many States are now engaged in the next stage of this process, the development and implementation of a program improvement plan (PIP) based on the review findings.

A new report from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), Improving the Performance and Outcomes of Child Welfare through State Program Improvement Plans, explores some of the most important themes emerging in State PIPs and takes a close look at PIPs from five States--Alabama, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Vermont.

The paper identifies the following key features of effective PIPs:

  • Making priorities. A strategic, targeted approach to program improvement is more effective than an all-encompassing checklist.
  • Communication. Concerted, constant, and careful communication within child welfare agencies and extending outside the agencies will ensure the plan is more than an exercise in paper and process.
  • Statewide scope of reform. For purposes of political support from State legislatures and governors, and for true equity for children, no part of the State should be left behind in the move to improve outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.
  • Stakeholder commitment and cross-system collaboration. PIPs can better ensure lasting improvement through involvement of other agencies and citizens of communities that child welfare agencies serve.
  • Innovation. PIPs should open doorways to carefully crafted experiments that push beyond the traditional boundaries of child welfare so that States' methods of responding to families reported for child maltreatment and providing care for children in need of protection will produce the intended results.
  • Self-direction. The States most likely to achieve their PIP aims are those that embrace program improvement as an agency-wide cause, independent of outside requirements.
  • Leadership. Development and implementation of PIPs is best achieved by those who are enthusiastic, committed, and thoughtful. A knowledge of child welfare policy and practice, continuity, and longevity also contribute to effective PIP leadership.

Improving the Performance and Outcomes of Child Welfare through State Program Improvement Plans is available on the CSSP website at www.cssp.org/uploadFiles/2515_CSSP_FINAL.pdf.

Related Items

For more about the CFSR/PIP process, see "ACYF Commissioner Speaks on CFSR Challenges, Encourages States' Plans for Improvement" in the December 2002/January 2003 issue of Children's Bureau Express.

Additional background information about the CFSR process and individual States' results can be found on the Children's Bureau website at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/cwrp/index.htm.

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