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H: Closed Structures <<>> Open Structures <<>>
Dynamic Structures

At the basic
practice level, internal focus results in closed structures or boxes that are
self-contained and relatively impermeable. It is like having a “wall” around
the program or agency through which people and information pass very slowly, if
at all. This phenomenon applies to the programs within the agency. It also
applies to an even greater extent to the programs and entities external to the

In addition to the
obvious communication and resource management issues associated with these
closed structures, there are both recognized and unrecognized issues related to
program and services appropriateness for individual children. These issues
include, among other problems, extended delays related to reassigning children
from one program to another and limited effectiveness caused by restricting
children to the services available within a program. Minimal consideration is
given to the optimal resource and services array for individual children.

Closed structures
expand to open structures at the intermediate practice level when the divisions
and barriers among and between departments, programs, and operating units
dissolve and reconfigure on an as needed basis. The configuration of the agency
is dynamic and responds to the focal outcomes present at any specific time. The
internal configuration, personnel assignment, and resource distribution
optimize so as to maximize the achievement of designated outcomes. For all but
very small agencies, the transition from closed to open structures within the
agency is among the most challenging shifts as organizations expand practice.

Importantly, open
structures are not merely programs and agencies that work well with each other.
Instead, open structures exist when programs, services, and whole agencies are
continuously redefining boundaries, redefining roles and responsibilities, and
reconfiguring people and resources to respond to the interests and needs of

As open structures
expand in the advanced practice level to variable Resource-focus, the
underlying structures expand to conform to client and practice requirements. At
this level, the agency and the Children’s Safety Net are in a process of
continuous re-engineering and re-configuration. Assuring variable Resource-focus
within dynamic structures represents the optimal strategy for adequate child
protection practice.

How it works:

Closed internal
and external structures are self-contained and relatively impermeable. As
practice expands, structures dissolve and reconfigure on an as needed basis to
respond to the needs and interests of children and families. These structures
develop a variable resource focus where the available services and program
opportunities are dynamic and dependent on the needs and interests of the
specific children and families being served.

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