Contracted providers often take the role of the agency-in-the-field. They may have their own name
and their own mission, but they are nonetheless representative of the public child welfare agency
and its work in the community. Since private providers are under contract to deliver essential
services to children, youth or families, care should be given to establishing good lines of formal
communications between the agency and provider.
While such communication often occurs between leadership of both entities, Communications can
assist with educating contracted providers and staff members about the agency’s mission, guiding
principles, goals for the year and new initiatives. Provider distribution lists can be developed to
send regular messages to provider leadership who, in turn, can forward them throughout their
organization. Often, agency all-staff email messages are relevant to providers as well. Likewise,
an agency newsletter can be distributed to providers. Giving staff of contracted provider agencies
access to the public child welfare agency’s Intranet is another means to keep all those in service
to children, youth and families on the same page.
Not only is it important to get information to provider agencies, it is also important to get
feedback from provider agencies. Communications may consider organizing an annual (or more
frequent) Provider Forum to facilitate a collective dialog with agency leadership. Such forums also
serve to encourage relationship-building and collaboration among providers. Forums may uncover
disconnects and offer creative solutions toward remedying communications issues. For instance,
large agencies may consider establishing a dedicated staff member with expertise in local
resources, to assist provider staff with identifying available agency resources for families.
Surveys are an effective way to gauge provider alignment with agency mission, guiding principles
and goals. These can be done through the agency web site and with anonymous participation.
Providers also can be encouraged to extend the brand of the agency via an affiliation and funding
acknowledgement on their literature and web site. This serves to broaden the community’s
understanding of the breadth of agency work and, to a degree, permits the agency to leverage
goodwill established by these providers, since they may be viewed in a more positive, family-
strengthening, or community-enhancing way than the agency itself.