Establish Your Implementation Team

Go To Section

Set the Stage for Linkages Becoming the Way of Doing Business

Go To Section

Decide Which Families Will be Served by Linkages

Go To Section

Select the Type of Linkages Program

Go To Section

Clear the Way for Collaboration to Happen

Go To Section

Establish the Policies and Procedures to Guide Linkages Practice

Go To Section

Align Resources to Launch and Support Linkages

Go To Section

1Establish Your Implementation Team

The first step is to establish the team that will get Linkages launched in your location and monitor its success. This group must be empowered by executive sponsors from both programs–child welfare and CalWORKs–to guide the process, make decisions about moving Linkages forward and create buy-in among the rank and file.

To ensure joint leadership throughout the implementation process, appoint two co-chairs representing each side of the partnership. Designating these co-chairs to coordinate the effort is an essential component of project management.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Whoever is going to be involved with Linkages needs to be involved from the outset
  • Make sure you maintain co-leadership on your Implementation Team to balance the interests of both child welfare and CalWORKs
  • Maintain regular communication between Implementation Team co-chairs and executive sponsors to ensure Linkages remains a priority

Effective Implementation Teams have membership from all parts of the system with a role to play in Linkages

Co-chairs with sufficient authority and time to guide the work

Program and line staff who are familiar with current practice in both child welfare and CalWORKs

Research/data analysts who understand the data systems used to track mutual client information and outcomes

Fiscal analysts to help determine cost sharing strategies

Union representatives to build buy-in for the value of Linkages with line staff

Training personnel to consider the skill building needs of staff and managers who will implement Linkages

2Set the Stage for Linkages Becoming the Way of Doing Business

Linkages represents a shift in agency philosophy based on understanding the interaction between poverty and maltreatment and its impact on family well-being. To support this kind of innovation, your county’s leadership and Implementation Team need to agree on the strategic foundation upon which service coordination between CalWORKs and CWS will be built.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Communicate the vision broadly and infuse the philosophy of Linkages into all aspects of the program.
  • Use the guiding principles as a “touchstone” to ensure service coordination protocols put the values of Linkages into action.
  • Recognize staff and leaders who demonstrate behaviors that support the philosophy and values of Linkages.


This planning step results in your county summarizing its new philosophy into three written documents:

Vision, Mission and Guiding Principles

Several counties have offered the visions, missions and/or guiding principles (VMGPs) they’ve developed for their Linkages programs:

Fresno VMGPLos Angeles VMGPSan Luis Obispo VMGPTehama VMGPYolo VMGPSan Luis Obispo Strategic Direction Presentation

3Decide Which Families Will be Served by Linkages

This planning step involves using data and other knowledge about your service population to determine which families are the focus of your Linkages program. Based on your Linkages vision and mission, consider whether your county wants to focus on primary, secondary or tertiary preventative coordination between Child Welfare and CalWORKs. Who are the families most likely to benefit from the prevention focus selected? Which families can be identified in a consistent, efficient and effective manner? Use data from your case management systems and input from experienced supervisors and line staff who are familiar with the populations your agency serves to answer these questions.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Start with one target population to get your service collaboration effort going.
  • Begin with the target population that presents the best opportunity to identify and engage vulnerable families in service coordination.
  • Expand the service population after policy and practice decisions are made, staffing resources are in place, and cost-benefit of funding strategies are determined.


Several counties have engaged their IT staff to create the programming that identifies families involved in both systems. This involves extracting and merging data from each information system to create a single data set.

Linking Data Presentation Contra CostaUsing Data to Identify Linked Clients Tehama

4Select the Type of Linkages Program

Once you’ve decided which families to serve, decision-making becomes real about the needs of these families, their typical points of intersection with county agencies and the types of staffing and resources available to support them. Now you’re ready to decide what “flavor” of Linkages program fits best for this target population. Consider the program models described in the Linkages in Action area of the Toolkit. Review examples of how other counties have implemented similar Linkages efforts, visit a nearby Linkages county to see their program in action or consult with other Linkages Coordinators to support this planning step.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Use existing momentum in the county to choose a focus to your Linkages that doesn’t make it feel like an add-on.
  • Align your Linkages program to your overall goals & objectives within your county, so it carries some visibility (e.g. making it part of System Improvement Plan or Work Participation Plan).
  • Pilot test new Linkages protocols on a small scale within a single unit or team to help confirm assumptions and refine processes.


This button will take you to the Linkages in Action page, which houses a collection of county program descriptions.

County Program Descriptions

5Clear the Way for Collaboration to Happen

This planning step involves making key policy decisions that allow service coordination to occur between CalWORKs and Child Welfare staff.

Experience Tells Us…

  • If the coordinated case planning system isn’t formalized, it won’t happen.
  • Anchor Linkages service coordination within existing practices that promote collaboration (e.g., Child and Family Teaming, Multi-Disciplinary Teaming, System of Care Coordination)

6Establish the Policies and Procedures to Guide Linkages Practice

Based on the type of Linkages program you’re interested in implementing, there are many examples of Linkages policies and procedures from other counties to use as models. Written policies and procedures avoid an informal, haphazard approach to service coordination and help ensure that Linkages becomes institutionalized. Create written protocols to address the following three topics for the type of Linkages program you plan to implement:

  • Identifying Clients: The policies, procedures and tools for identifying and screening clients who are members of the target population.
  • Information Sharing: The process and methods for respectful sharing of confidential information between CalWORKs and CWS for the purpose of enhanced service coordination.
  • Coordinated Case Planning: The case planning activities of caseworkers, families and service providers for efficiently and effectively coordinating efforts toward meeting the goals of economic sufficiency and child safety.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Written protocols help make practice more consistent and guide staff training content.
  • Adapt policies & procedures that have proved successful in other counties; try not to reinvent the wheel.
  • Develop service coordination protocols jointly, so roles, responsibilities and expectations for both CWS and CalWORKs staff are clear and aligned from start to finish.

7Align Resources to Launch and Support Linkages

Now that you know what your Linkages program looks like, you’re ready to plan for putting it into practice. Essential elements of implementation include training, evaluation and communication, all of which are featured in their own Linkages Toolkits.

Experience Tells Us…

  • Training helps educate both management and line staff about the philosophy, practices and procedures that will guide LInkages operations.
  • Evaluation allows you to track and analyze client outcome data and other factors to measure the results of your Linkages program.
  • Getting the word out about Linkages increases awareness, creates buy-in and builds relationships between CalWORKs and CWS which can promote implementation success.
  • Appointing a Linkages Coordinator is an essential step to help ensure program operations are implemented as intended.