Jody Grutza of Grutza Consulting

State public child welfare agencies are making decisions right now about how child welfare services will be delivered over the next five years. Do you have a seat at the table? If not, grab your seat FAST. 

We know that the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) is creating a major shift toward prevention services, while also making changes to residential care and overall state funding structures that will impact service delivery models. This recently passed legislation requires public child welfare agencies to incorporate proposed reforms into their federally mandated strategic plans by June 30, 2019. 

From 2020-2024, public child welfare agencies will be implementing strategic plans that they are busily drafting at this very moment. Have you been a part of this planning process? 

Federally mandated reports, such as the Child and Family Services Plan (CFSP), that require public child welfare agencies to justify continued prevention funding also include a five year strategic plan. Although strategic planning is standard procedure for state agencies, FFPSA is shifting public child welfare’s strategic focus on expectations they will demand from the community-based providers per federal guidance. There is also the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) that periodically reviews state child welfare systems for quality service delivery and monitors system performance through another federally mandated process, the state’s Program Improvement Plan (PIP). Ideally, the CFSP, CFSR and PIP are federal child welfare mandates that are integrated and consistently include stakeholder engagement. Although it varies, there are public child welfare agencies leading the charge in fully integrating their federal mandates with active stakeholder participation.

I have had the privilege of working with the Virginia Department of Social Services on the development on their CFSP, where they have ensured the consistent engagement of the community and providers as a central component of their entire planning process. At the end of the day, they know the success of their strategic plan depends on the ability of its community partners and providers to implement proposed reforms. Their goal is to design a fully integrated strategic plan that is inclusive of every federal requirement and its agency priorities where a compelling vision for child welfare across the state is clearly articulated. It has been exhilarating to help lead a public-private collaboration that is authentic, seamless, and diverse. Your state may be making similar efforts but if you haven’t been involved up to this point, I urge you to be proactive in that engagement. 

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had the best intentions to execute on a big project or large-scale planning efforts where we found ourselves falling short or running out of time. This is the reality of several state agencies—hard pressed to craft a five-year strategic plan in the midst of their daily, unrelenting pressures that leave little time to engage you in their complex planning processes. 

Sometimes we must be the ones that step up to support our state child welfare agencies, even when we are not asked, and especially if it is going to impact our how we serve our children and families. 

How to Ensure a Seat at the Table

  • Contact your state public child welfare agency and ask about the status of the CFSP. If that person is unaware, ask for their policy unit to inquire how you can serve as a planning partner.
  • If you are involved in the rollout of FFPSA, remind the public child welfare agency about the importance of integrating the FFPSA and the CFSP

Get a seat at the table now! Time is limited, offer to inform and design the report. Alliance for Strong Families and Communities members are a critical resource and hold a wealth of information that can guide them toward the right decisions.

Headshot of Jody GrutzaAbout the Author

Jody Grutza currently leads Grutza Consulting LLC, a specialized consulting firm that supports strategic development and implementation in human services. Grutza Consulting brings both public and private child welfare expertise to community and private providers in evolving their business models because of federal system reform efforts.

She has more than 15 years of expertise in planning strategic initiatives, mobilizing high-level teams to execute them seamlessly, and a track record of delivering on national and local system and policy overhauls. She headed administration, strategic planning, and execution for county-wide community-based care for safety and well-being of 4K+ children. She also orchestrated public relations and strategic initiatives to maximize positive public view of programs and enhance services for national $165 million organization.