Leadership Lens

Christine James-Brown

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As many of you know well, this is a time of change and opportunity for child welfare services. Agencies are juggling changing accountability requirements, increasingly complicated issues among families and children and the communities where they live, and increasing access to information about improving outcomes. This is all happening with a backdrop of economic instability in our country and changes in critical services like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and health care. There is tre-mendous pressure on the child welfare system to accomplish its mission of safety, permanency, and well-being for vulnerable children, youth, and families.

This is a time when we could easily, and understandably, resort to protecting our own piece of the world and just try to get by. But getting by is simply not enough. Getting by will not move the needle in a positive direction for children, youth, and families. It will not position us to be competitive and viable in the future. And it will not allow us to make a contribution to the future success of children and youth and the country they will soon inherit.

Instead of hunkering down, we need to recognize that our future success as organizations and as a service area requires us to go in the direction of openness, collaboration, and accountability. We need to be open to each other, to researchers, to critics, and to others about how our work is perceived. We need to find ways to work with each other rather than against each other to secure the resources we need to better serve children, youth, and families. We need to be more focused and accountable to each other and to the people and communities we serve.

CWLA's commitment is to serve as the facilitator for openness, collaboration, and accountability among our member agencies, partner organizations, and other key stakeholders. We will spend the next sev-eral years providing a forum for professionals to come together to share what works, discuss the latest research, develop responses to our critics, and find ways to partner with others. We will first focus on immediate issues, including how to operate efficiently and effectively in the current economic environment and how to accomplish tasks in order to be successful in the future. Then we'll move on to future issues we need to address, including an alignment of funding streams and levels and incentives with the goals of safety, permanence, and well-being, with a special focus on making sure that children, youth, and families have access to an integrated system of individualized services. We will also focus on accountability and continuing our strong commitment to Standards of Excellence, which are based on the most up-to-date research and knowledge in the field.

It is not easy for any of us to look toward the future when we are so challenged by the present. But we need only to look at those we serve for inspiration. Each of us knows a child, a young person, or a family whose entire lives have been challenging, yet they have no option but to keep moving toward the future. Openness, willingness to collaborate, and acceptance of accountability are things that we ask of the children, youth, and families we serve--and these are the things that are expected of us now.

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