Adaptive Leadership in the Foster Care System
Our client is a consortium of academic, state and federal government, and private contractors dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children and families with a focus on issues such as adoption, foster care, abuse and neglect. The client sought to implement a new state-based “practice model” to improve coordination and consistency amongst a diverse set of stakeholders to better achieve “safety, permanency, and well-being” for at-risk children.
The initial implementation of the model was difficult. For one, an understandable bureaucratic focus on compliance created silo practices, a risk-averse culture, and a sense of disempowerment from the people who work most closely with the families. As a result, frontline social workers did not see the value of the practice model, expressed collective skepticism and were generally resistant to the model.
CLA helped the client:
- Build a holistic view of the problem by helping the organization understand the resistance to change was a legitimate systemic pressure that needed to be addressed head on;
- Create the space for state central, regional and field staff, foster parents, biological parents, children and other stakeholders to work creatively together;
- Instill a practice and norm of experimentation and risk-taking as a way to innovate new approaches to collaboration;
- Build the organization’s leadership capacity – from frontline staff to administrators – and empower frontline workers to solve complex adaptive challenges.
Through three successive launches, the initiative has gained ground in nearly every county across the state. Counties have experienced a significant decrease in the transition of children in the foster care system and an increase in the retention rate of foster parents. This has attracted new foster parents to the system. Moreover, the client has successfully cascaded leadership capacity and adaptability deeper within the organization.