Continuous quality improvement (CQI) systems help align the agency’s practices, procedures, policies, training, and services with mission, vision, and values. The agency should focus on specific practice standards and outcomes that are grounded in its mission and values. For example, an agency whose mission reflects a strong focus on family engagement may be receiving consistent feedback from consumers that families do not feel valued and included. To ensure that the agency is adhering to its mission, practice would need to be changed to be more family-centered with a strong focus on promoting family engagement.
Other elements necessary to effectively carry out the mission and vision include:
- Involving all key staff, external stakeholders, and consumer groups in the determination of change initiatives and measures
- Providing maximum data/information access to stakeholders and consumers and all levels of staff
- Using data to inform all major decisions
- Using results to continually improve services
- Integrating CQI activities into all aspects of systems and services, and into the agency’s core beliefs and values
- Ensuring that child and family outcomes and measures are continually assessed
Developing and implementing a practice model, or a conceptual map of how an agency will operate and partner with consumers and stakeholders in its services, has provided an opportunity for some States to align their mission, vision, values, policies, and practice. At the same time, these States might examine their existing CQI program and, as needed, expand or modify it to ensure that their entire child welfare system coincides with the agency’s current values and standards and that all critical factors are aligned and in sync.
For instance, an agency’s practice standards might state that workers should, in visits with children, see and visit with the child alone, observe the child’s environment to make certain he or she is safe, ask foster parents if they have needs, etc. If practice is closely aligned with mission, vision, and values, agency standards in both policy and procedures will reflect those factors; management will be focused on meeting articulated standards; and the agency will be training and coaching toward achieving better practice in those areas. While standards alone do not ensure quality practice, they are a framework that reflects the agency’s values, principles, and approaches that help ensure positive outcomes for families and children.
When mission, values, vision, policies, and practice are synchronized, what is in writing, what is being coached, what is included in training, and what is assessed in case record reviews is aligned and the same. There is consistent messaging to all staff across all programs, as well as external stakeholders and consumers, which is critically important in making needed changes.
CQI provides the means to reach the goal of organizational excellence and encompasses the pursuit of knowledge and skills necessary to effectively accomplish the agency’s mission. To that end, the mission, values, and vision statements should be revisited periodically to ensure that policies, practices, services, and intended outcomes are in accord with tenets articulated in the agency mission.