Journey’s of Change

Journey’s of Change


By Rick Calvert

Child and Family Agency’s Mission Statement, Nurturing children and families to develop their strengths through service, partnership and advocacy, reminds us that we’re in the change business.  While our strengths and potential – clients and providers alike – are nearly boundless and stand always at the ready to respond when given half a chance, the actual journey of change often isn’t so simple.  Barriers of all types – outside voices that tell us we can’t, our own inside whispers of doubt, the concrete barriers thrown up by poverty and societal inequities of all types, our hesitance to leave the familiar, and more – all too often cause us to give up and turn back or, worse, forget that we have that potential.

Part of the richness of working at CFA is that we’re big enough, with nearly 190 staff and 650 volunteers, that we are provided with frequent reminders that the majority of us have major change and challenges going on at any given point in time, and not always with much if any warning or forecast.  A CEO is no different, and my upcoming retirement in July is, of course, packed with current and anticipatory changes, as well as lots of ripple effects on close co-workers, friends and family.  While there is much to reflect on in terms of accomplishments and hard lessons learned since I first joined CFA in 1984 (OK – there was that brief tease of a departure from July, 1993 – September, 1994), that’s not what I want to write about.

What I do want to focus on is the incredible team that is here.  The commitment, brilliance and compassion of staff, Board and auxiliary volunteers make it possible for me to let go with the confidence that the agency’s programs and served clients are in great hands, hands that are developing the skills of the future so necessary for CFA’s thriving.  A number of major projects and structural changes are well underway, breathtaking for me to experience as I have a gradually less direct hand in them as they fly forward.  I focus here on just three, with apologies to those not highlighted due to space constraints.

  • Our behavioral health and primary care programs are in the midst of implementing the most exciting, fundamental changes in the history of the agency in how we deliver and manage those services. The nationally replicated, proven model being used will result in improved treatment outcomes, greater client satisfaction, an increase in billable income, and improved compensation and job satisfaction for staff – a pretty incredible win-win-win-win.  The change process is requiring lots of sustained, hard work involving practitioners, supervisors, administrative leadership and support staff.  It’s taking smarts, collective buy-in, responsiveness to identified concerns, and the courage not to flinch.  I stand in awe of this work.
  • The agency’s infrastructure and workflows are becoming more “horizontal” than “vertical”. This is a challenging change process for any organization.  Roles are always pretty darn clear in classic vertical hierarchies for decision-making, but a degree of rich idea-sharing and buy-in can be lost.  Horizontal teams encourage incorporation of the best ideas and buy-in, but figuring out role clarity, especially during the change process, is challenging.  The future will demand the best ideas and solutions for CFA to thrive.
  • Given the number of challenges and opportunities being handled, the partnership between staff and our Board is elevating in degree and style. Our Board has always been incredibly supportive of what staff do in pursuit of the agency’s mission, but this feels closer than ever and qualitatively different.  Challenging?    Good?  Absolutely!  In times of less change the many talents of our board members aren’t always in evidence.  In times such as these, we’re discovering and taking critical advantage of what our Board members bring to the table.  It’s impactful and energizing to be part of.

I’d be remiss to not also extend a hearty “thank you” to Child and Family Agency’s long list of perennial funders, donors and community partners, without whom CFA couldn’t do what it does.  The impact and supportive relationships are quite special, and it’s good to know these relationships will continue on.