ACF Strategic Plan - Introduction

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is guided by the vision of “children, youth, families, individuals, and communities who are resilient, safe, healthy, and economically secure.”  We seek to advance that vision by providing federal leadership, partnership, and resources for the compassionate and effective delivery of human services.   We are responsible for federal stewardship of a set of programs that provide essential services and supports for millions of Americans.  And through our grants administration, research, technical assistance, and policy guidance, we seek to support national, state, territorial, tribal, and local efforts to strengthen families and communities and promote opportunity and economic mobility.

In our strategic plan, we describe our goals and strategic initiatives for 2014.  The plan does not aim to describe everything that ACF will accomplish in 2014.  Much of our daily work involves our responsibilities to ensure that federal funds are spent in compliance with federal law, and that federal grantees meet the terms of their grants.  In furtherance of and along with those core responsibilities, we seek to advance a set of key goals:

  • Promote economic, health, and social well-being for individuals, families, and communities;
  • Promote healthy development and school readiness for children, especially those in low-income families;
  • Promote safety and well-being of children, youth, and families;
  • Support underserved and underrepresented populations; and
  • Upgrade the capacity of ACF to make a difference for families and communities.

While one of our specific goals is to support underserved and underrepresented populations, we view this as a shared responsibility that is cross-cutting, involves linkages and partnerships across ACF offices, and informs all of ACF’s work. 

Our strategic plan describes key action steps that we will take place in 2014 in support of our goals.  We identify both the initiatives and the offices that will have primary responsibility for advancing these goals.  But this is not simply a collection of individual initiatives; it represents a coordinated, shared effort to advance ACF’s goals and vision.

Our efforts directly support the President’s commitment to promote and advance economic mobility and opportunity.  A strategy to promote economic mobility and opportunity needs to focus on broadening opportunities across the life cycle ---expanding access to high quality early childhood settings, promoting success in elementary and secondary school, ensuring effective transitions to work and postsecondary education, providing career pathways to labor market progress for adults, and helping families build assets.   At the same time, a strategy to improve economic mobility must support labor market participation and the engagement of parents in the lives of their children, and it must strengthen the communities in which children reside. 

Our work to promote the successful integration of refugees, improve outcomes for youth in foster care and those transitioning out of care, increase safety and stability for runaway and homeless youth, prevent human trafficking and support the recovery of trafficking survivors, prevent homelessness and help households and families attain stable housing, and prevent domestic and intimate partner violence all contribute to the efforts to promote mobility and opportunity. 

2014 represents the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the War on Poverty.  Ultimately, a strategy to advance opportunity must also seek to reduce both the severity and the consequences of sustained persistent poverty.  Advances in neuroscience are demonstrating the adverse effects of childhood poverty on the brains of developing children.   Research tells us that those who grow up in or near poverty are more likely to be poor adults than any other group, and least likely to reach the middle class. 

We are also mindful of the emerging findings relating to the impacts of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and toxic stress in the lives of children and adults.  We are committed to building the research base and drawing from that research to guide policy and practice, with goals of reducing the stressors facing poor and high-risk children and the communities in which they reside, and helping parents and caretakers build skills to strengthen parenting and better manage the stressors they may also face.  We recognize that strategies to attain better outcomes for children must be two-generational strategies that address the needs of both children and their parents and caretakers. 

Across our efforts, we recognize the crucial role of promoting health and access to health care for children, adults, families, and communities.  Accordingly, the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, in both expanding enrollment and in broadening access to health screening and services, is fundamental to our work.

This Strategic Plan was developed with broad input across ACF.  The prior plan was rolled out in January 2012. In March 2013, ACF senior leadership initiated a process of revising and updating the plan.  Every ACF employee had the opportunity to review the draft Strategic Initiatives Plan and provide their feedback.  Late in 2013 and early in 2014, ACF offices further reviewed the final version to update and finalize it for issuance.

Within ACF, we will track and measure our progress throughout the year in accomplishing the actions that we describe in our plan.  We welcome public comment on our plan and our progress, and on how to improve our effectiveness in advancing our vision and goals.

Mark Greenberg
Acting Assistant Secretary
Administration for Children and Families
Department of Health and Human Services

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