Public child welfare leaders are responsible for setting the mission, vision and guiding principles of an agency’s operations. When it comes to research, the leader should establish a clear commitment to the development and implementation of a research plan and create a vision for the agency’s research as an organizational priority to improve agency performance. This vision can be part of the field’s overall research agenda and part of the agency’s overall strategic plan and should include mechanisms for how the agency will engage in research activities.
The leader needs to know what research is being conducted in other states in order to avoid duplication or to implement informed replication. This supports a vision of learning from members of the leader’s peer network and disseminating the lessons learned from their respective agencies and others on what practices yielded specific benefits and what interventions were not effective.
Adapting management's vision to the research framework will force the vision into demonstrated language that translates into clear direction. Stakeholders in the research community can help agencies clearly articulate and understand that their vision is of significant value and outline the overall research agenda and plan.
The leader is also responsible for creating a data-informed and data-driven agency culture. This includes the leader being research-informed and teaching lessons about research to staff. To do this, the leader can provide examples of how research has been applied by referring to research in communications to staff, asking whether staff is aware of research under discussion, bringing researchers into the agency to discuss work that has been done in the agency and supporting research efforts of staff and partners.
Public child welfare leaders help to produce and consume research that will guide them and the field. As a producer of research, child welfare leaders should recognize a cautionary note regarding the publication of research results and dissemination of research findings. Identifying and evaluating various domains in the administration of child welfare is essential in helping agencies zero in on effective best practices. Research allows a deeper look into the characteristics that led to successful interventions as well as the less than successful ones. These latter findings provide equally important knowledge about areas for improvement and
should be only seen as “negative results,” not failures.