Welcome to the Systems of Care Online Policy Action Guide, a capacity building tool that supports the process of identifying and advancing policy strategies to improve child welfare systems and practices. The Policy Action Guide provides a framework for thinking about child welfare policy options and initiating actions that help promote an effective policy initiative.
The Policy Action Guide directs you through three critical stages for planning a policy initiative:
- Complete an assessment. Through a series of targeted questions, you can define your issue of interest, specify objectives, review existing policies and policy gaps, and determine the factors that support or restrict your policy initiative.
- Select a policy approach. You can review the descriptions and considerations presented for five different policy approaches—legislation, multiparty agreement, proclamation, internal policy, and regulation—and then select the policy approach(es) that best fit your needs and circumstances.
- Begin developing an action plan for your selected approach. The Policy Action Guide helps you develop and document strategies for understanding the policy development context and process, identifying who should be involved, and planning what needs to be done—building support, developing drafts, planning for outreach and implementation, identifying resources, and more.
The guide provides printable assessment and planning documents (in Word and PDF) for users to complete and share with partners and other stakeholders as they advance their policy initiative.
Links to useful policy resources and tools from the field also are provided. Note that the inclusion of these resources does not necessarily imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
• Who should use the Policy Action Guide?
The Policy Action Guide is designed for representatives of child welfare agencies, health and human services organizations, community coalitions, or other entities working toward improving child welfare systems or practices through one or more of the following principles:
- Interagency collaboration
- Individualized, strengths-based care
- Cultural and linguistic competence
- Child, youth, and family involvement
- Community-based approaches
This guide is particularly useful for communities in the process of building or sustaining child welfare driven systems of care, which integrate all six principles. Because the systems of care principles correspond to the practice principles underlying the Child and Family Services Reviews, the guide also may be helpful to child welfare administrators assessing policy needs to address issues identified during the review process. Others that may benefit include agencies developing a coordinated response to address the complex needs of children and families as well as organizations or community groups considering policies that promote family engagement, advance culturally responsive and individualized approaches, and strengthen community services and supports.
• What do we mean by policies and why are they important?
A policy is a plan or course of action, adopted by a government or institution, intended to influence and determine decisions and actions. Policies typically provide the basis for organizational decision-making, drive resource allocation, and guide acceptable practices.
Child welfare policies can take many forms and are set in three basic domains:
- Executive and legislative actions create policies that provide direction (for example, statutes or regulations); allocate funding (appropriations); or raise awareness (proclamations).
- Policies established between a child welfare agency and other agencies or community organizations (through interagency agreement or memorandum of understanding) define expected roles and responsibilities.
- Internal policies within the child welfare agency direct procedures and practices.
A policy initiative—whether through the development of new policies or modification of existing ones—can be a powerful strategy for achieving and sustaining reform within the child welfare system. Policies communicate priorities and an ongoing commitment to a specified direction.
While a vital component, a policy initiative is only one of many important strategies in a comprehensive approach to evidence-based implementation. Likewise, it is one of multiple components needed for building a comprehensive infrastructure to improve child welfare outcomes.
• How do the Policy Action Guide stages fit within a comprehensive policy initiative?
The stages outlined in the Policy Action Guide (in blue) provide a strong foundation for a policy initiative. They do not, however, encompass the complete process. After planning a policy initiative, your team will continue on to get the policy enacted, implement it, and then evaluate the outcomes.