The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Private Child Welfare Agenciesí Service Delivery, Interorganizational Competition, and Performance Management Strategies

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Executive Center 2A (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Organizations and Management
Symposium Organizer:
Bowen McBeath, PhD, Portland State University
Michael J. Austin, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
The three papers comprising this symposium provide a window into the institutional/organizational niche (Galaskiewicz & Bielefeld, 1998) private agencies occupy within different state child welfare systems.  In recent decades, private child welfare agencies have increasingly sought and/or been required to improve service effectiveness and program performance.  These heightened accountability and performance expectations have coincided with broader macro-organizational trends, including increased interorganizational competition, growing interest in network/governance models based upon business principles, and the diffusion of performance management models that seek to improve frontline service provision and child and family outcomes (Hasenfeld, 2010; Smith, 2010).  Yet despite the historic and ubiquitous partnership between public and private agencies across state child welfare systems (Collins-Camargo, McBeath, & Ensign, 2011), private child welfare agencies’ contributions, experiences, and strategic responses to these trends remain poorly understood. 

In response to this large organizational/management knowledge gap, the symposium papers provide methodological, theoretical, and substantive/practical advances for social work organizational/management research.   Methodologically, each paper applies current social science research methods to data from the National Survey of Private Child and Family Serving Agencies ((NSPCFSA); McBeath, Collins-Camargo, & Chuang, 2011), which has the benefit of providing information on the human service organizational questions under investigation.  The symposium organizers developed NSPCFSA in 2011 to provide the first cross-state portrait of private agencies serving the child welfare population, the services these agencies provide through contract with public funders, and the interorganizational relationships they have with other public and private entities.  Specific attention was paid to the 446 respondent agencies’ funding composition, pressures on organizational maintenance, and performance management strategies.  In relation to the NSPCFSA study aims, symposium papers use advanced statistical techniques (e.g., Poisson regression, ordinal logistic regression, fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis) to examine core issues faced by private agencies that have heretofore not been studied. 

Theoretically, symposium papers provide new examinations of core relationships concerning human service organizational/managerial behavior, including (in order): institutional embeddedness and human service delivery; shared reliance upon public funding and interorganizational competition; and organizational and interorganizational determinants of the effectiveness of performance management strategies.  Symposium papers draw from classic human service organizational theories (e.g., resource dependency, new institutionalism (Garrow & Hasenfeld, 2010)) to understand these relationships, while also testing the relevance of theories developed to describe the behavior of for-profit manufacturing firms (e.g., Gulati, Nohria, & Zaheer, 2000) for the human service context.  Symposium papers thus provide an interdisciplinary lens concerning human service organizational/management questions that have been under-examined by social work researchers. 

Substantively, symposium papers link theory to practice in highlighting the need for social work managers to improve public-private child welfare partnerships and enhance frontline service provision for child welfare-involved children and families.  Symposium papers provide promising management strategies for advocates and policymakers interested in the structure, financing, and management of human service systems.  Additionally, the symposium discussant will (by virtue of his four decades of scholarship on practical strategies for improving the research/evidence base for human service management) provide a comprehensive set of implications for social work organizational/management practice.

* noted as presenting author
Institutional Embeddedness and the Diversity of Private Child Welfare Service Delivery
Emmeline Chuang, PhD, San Diego State University; Bowen McBeath, PhD, Portland State University; Crystal E. Collins-Camargo, PhD, University of Louisville
The Relationship Between Perceived Interorganizational Competition and Public Funding Dependency Among Private Child Welfare Agencies
Bowen McBeath, PhD, Portland State University; Emmeline Chuang, PhD, San Diego State University; Crystal E. Collins-Camargo, PhD, University of Louisville
Private Child Welfare Agency Managers' Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Different Performance Management Strategies
Crystal E. Collins-Camargo, PhD, University of Louisville; Bowen McBeath, PhD, Portland State University; Emmeline Chuang, PhD, San Diego State University
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