Complex strategies are more likely to succeed when a thorough assessment is made of the organization’s readiness for making such changes happen, including a balanced and objective assessment of its current resources and capacity. Agencies are more often contending with how best to use scarce resources than how to invest surplus resources. Related questions include the following:
- What is the current funding mix and how does it align with the Department's programs and organizational structure? How dependent is Child Welfare on non-CW funding streams like Medicaid?
- Does the agency have any contingent liabilities such as looming disallowances or pending lawsuits that might come to fruition?
- Does the agency have any pending actions from authorities that may impact current resources such as past or pending inspector general reports that may call for changes to its programs and/or processes? Any past or pending audit reports that may call for changes to its programs or processes?
- Is the agency located in a federal region with an interpretation of regulation that may impact it negatively? Public child welfare agencies work to maximize revenues in a federal funding environment where cost allocation requirements are laborious and restrictive. Regulations can be confusing and sometimes open to interpretation (e.g., Medicaid targeted case management, Fostering Connections guidance, IV-E training allowances).
- How much control does the agency have over its fiscal/payment mechanisms? Does it control continuous improvement of these mechanisms or does an external party, such as a state-level human services agency or office of management and budget, control them? To what extent is flexibility limited by such factors as automation and levels of review, accountability and documentation that extend beyond the agency?
- Are there any shifts in demographics of people served? Are there any changes to federal or state service definitions or focus, or other external factors such as removal of services or a shift in programmatic direction, that will likely impact the resources required in various service types or segments of people served? For example, adolescents tend to move more within the system and use more group care, which tend to be more expensive services. And substance abuse by parents impacts the anticipated length of children’s stays in care.
- Does staff understand process simplification and streamlining of their daily efforts in order to open up capacity for new initiatives and innovations? Are there built in incentives to make this happen or is it built into the culture of the agency?
- Is the agency adding things to the roles and responsibilities of staff without understanding with equal focus what needs to be reduced or eliminated from them?
- Is the agency mapping out mandated processes in such a way that connected processes are not adversely affected? Do we have mechanisms in place to proactively change systems so as to reduce burdens on staff and produce better outcomes for children, youth and families?
Agency leaders who see these and other trends can anticipate and work to more proactively mitigate risks to their resources. Engaging proactively in dialogue with stakeholders and funders can enhance the organization’s credibility with them.
If the agency’s readiness and capacity for change are stronger than the limitations, constraints and other obstacles identified, strategic efforts will generally succeed. This outlook will be impacted by the agency’s broader change management planning as well as the likelihood that efforts to maximize revenues will yield strong results.