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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 agency.

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 children.

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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