If we were to conduct a scan of public child welfare in the United States, odds are that we would be unable to find two agencies that approach their work in the same way. To a certain extent, this variance between agencies is necessary. Every community is unique and agencies need to remain flexible to respond to these variations. However, the differences that exist between child welfare agencies are not solely the result of the differing communities they serve.
As a field that has long been directed by others, public child welfare has had difficulty uniting under a common message and establishing clear boundaries for itself. This lack of clarity leads to inconsistent practices and reactionary policies that spring up in response to high-profile tragedies. Conflicting philosophical orientations to the work have also grown out of the confusion, eroding public confidence and detracting from the legitimacy of the field in the eyes of stakeholders and communities.
Public child welfare cannot be truly effective unless it is able to speak with a unified voice. With this in mind, the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators, in partnership with Casey Family Programs, has undertaken a major initiative, Positioning Public Child Welfare Initiative: Strengthening Families in the 21st Century, PPCWI for short. The initiative is founded on the belief that in order for the field of public child welfare to achieve unity, clarity and legitimacy, it needs to create a set of written, universal standards to guide its work.
Written standards will: 1) clearly define the field's scope by outlining the jurisdictional boundaries of child welfare agencies; 2) unify public child welfare into a recognized field, increasing its credibility and legitimacy; 3) serve as a guidebook of best practices for child welfare agencies; and 4) provide benchmarks against which child welfare agencies can be held accountable.
The first task for the initiative was to conceptualize the field in such a way that writing standards would be manageable. NAPCWA developed an analytical framework that divides the public child welfare system into 15 key areas, or "domains," essential to all child welfare agencies and illustrates how the domains are interconnected. The 15 domains are Administrative Practices, Budget and Finance, Communications, Change Management, Disproportionality, Information Management, Infrastructure, Leadership, Practice Model, Public Policy, Research, Strategic Partnerships, Strategy, Technology Options and Workforce. …