B3: The Path to Innovation in Child Welfare 

Area of Focus: Organizational and Service Delivery Innovations
Room Location: Key 10

Innovation is both a process and an outcome. As organizations navigate the continuously changing child welfare system, innovation is more than just managing change as it happens. To ensure an organization is able to support families with the utmost quality, leaders must keep their eyes open and focus on what could be, but also not forget what is. Organizations’ missions, strategic plans, and organizational goals and objectives are all designed to help organizations move forward, improve, and stay on track. However, there are barriers and conditions outside of an organization’s control that impact the speed and direction of movement. Leaders have to reflect on whether movement forward is just movement along the same path or if it is movement to create a new path—with only the latter being innovation.

Change is inevitable and we can’t stop it, but we can decide how we interact with it and what we sculpt from it. Interacting with change innovatively takes strategy, reflection, and continuous adaptation. It also starts with the leader’s vision and framework for staff to follow.

Several organizational change models have been tested over the years, originally developed for the general business world, but they are relevant to child welfare leaders and can be adapted as such. This session will use examples to encourage discussion of how those models can be used practically to inform both strategic decisions and program direction. Leaders will leave with tools they can use to assess which path they are following—the same path or the path of innovation.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will assess and reflect on where they have been innovative, gotten stuck, and what goals they have for becoming more innovative
  • Tools and real-world examples, that can be adapted to assess the status of program/organization and/or future goals
  • Actions steps to implement at least one new tool or strategy to move on the path of innovation


Sarah Norris, Ed.D.
Chief Program Officer 
Crossnore Communities for Children 

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