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The Model:


Virtually all child protection agencies are
committed to child safety and work very hard to keep “their children”
safe. Unfortunately, that work is frequently not informed by a shared vision
for the community’s children and families. In the absence of a shared vision,
these organizations are seldom dynamic and often become bound by bureaucratic
process and inertia. Such agencies find themselves administering a variety of
disjointed programs with few unifying themes such as freedom from abuse and
neglect for all of the community’s children and permanence in a stable family
for every child. Additionally, agency workers seldom enjoy job satisfaction
from this type of environment since they seldom see positive outcomes, save
those of successfully completing the process that is defined for them by
others. That process is the central focus of all work, in the absence of a
shared vision and well-defined mission. Further, clients are limited to a fixed
menu of agency responses that often fail to fully and appropriately meet their
needs. Customizing agency responses to align with client needs is seldom done
because doing so would unacceptably deviate from the pre-defined process.


This model emphasizes the need for successful
organizations to be externally and internally vision driven and mission
focused. It begins by clearly defining and explicitly stating what the vision
of the organization is for the community’s children and families and, in turn,
for the clients it serves. Since the vision extends beyond the legal and
practical boundaries of any specific organization, the agency must define its
unique contribution to the attainment of that vision, i.e., its mission, its
reason for existence.


Next, the agency must identify what is
required to pursue its mission and determine its priorities (critical
initiatives). If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Additionally,
the day-to-day work must continue while the agency planfully develops the map
for its journey toward excellence.


This map is, of course, the agency’s
strategic plan. Along with focusing on and defining excellence for the agency,
it shows the path to follow along the way. The good news here is that the
strategic plan does show the way toward excellence. The bad news is that
excellence is not a place it is a destination. The very best strategic plan can
only show the way as far as today’s vision can reach, knowing that, when the
agency gets there, its vision will extend even farther.


Strategic planning is, thus, not a discrete
event. Rather, it is an ongoing commitment to moving toward excellence and to
iterative planning cycles. The commitment is to a self-renewing series of
strategic plans, generally each spanning two or three years. The distance an
agency can move during each planning cycle is variable. The constant pressure
for change that is a necessary part of strategic planning must be exerted at a
level that does not cause the agency’s foundation to collapse. Too much
pressure and the foundation collapses. Too little pressure and the necessary change
does not occur. Determining the level of change-pressure an organization can
bear without imploding and then constantly maintaining that precise pressure,
no more–no less, is one of the most critical skills common to effective
leaders in child protection.





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