Issue 7 | September 2021
Strategies to Support the Growth and Development of State Chapters
The Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center (WRCAC) recognizes state chapters as critical entities in efforts to provide accessible, high-quality, and evidence-informed services for children and families through children’s advocacy centers (CACs). Chapters are well-positioned to understand the unique needs of CACs in their states and can connect their centers to resources, training, and technical assistance to best meet those needs. To ensure the thirteen state chapters in the western region of the US have the support and resources required to do their work, WRCAC assesses the strengths and needs within chapters and assists in the strategic allocation of training and technical assistance resources. Most recently, our efforts have focused on strategic planning as a key tool to guide state chapters through a rigorous, inclusive process to define and sustain their role as leaders in their state’s response to child abuse.
The chapters in the west vary significantly from one another in terms of available resources and depth of services provided. Approximately one-third are staffed by just one part-time employee, and less than half have additional program or support staff. Turnover in chapter leadership is also common. The average annual budget for state chapters in the west, captured in the National Children’s Alliance 2019 Chapter Census, was just over $301,000 - almost 60% lower than the national average. Governance of each chapter varies as well, with several chapters in the west operating under the umbrella of a larger 501(c)3, one as a program of state government, and the remaining as independent, not-for-profit organizations. Regardless of the structure, most are guided by a governing or advisory board comprised wholly or predominantly of CAC member organizations. Board members are at times challenged to maintain focus on chapter needs that can be at odds or in competition with the needs of their own centers, (such as decisions regarding the distribution of funding). Not surprisingly, the fiscal and administrative constraints of chapters impact the extent to which they can successfully position themselves as state leaders in the field of child abuse intervention and advance the goals of the CAC movement in their states.

In 2018, WRCAC engaged six of the thirteen states within the western region in a pilot project to utilize a state chapter lifecycle model and workbook (adapted from Susan Kenny Stevens' book Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity). This project was designed to support chapter development, provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities and investigate the relationship between strong state chapters and access to high-quality services provided at CACs. The project provided state chapters leaders and their boards with a model to understand the stages of chapter development from an organizational perspective and where their chapter stood within that developmental model, including what gaps might need to be addressed to promote growth. The project highlighted that while there has been significant increase in the demand for services from state chapters and greater recognition of their role and impact, the organizational growth and development of chapters has not kept pace. We quickly realized chapter leaders and their boards needed help paying as much attention to the organizational needs of the chapter as they were doing for its member CACs.
The Chapter Lifecycle Workbook provides this model for chapters to identify and understand what lifecycle stage they are in across six organizational competencies. The lifecycle stages are adapted from Stevens' nonprofit lifecycles model. 
The Lifecycle Model pilot project provided a language and structure for chapters to identify specific gaps in organizational competencies, yet the roadmap for where to go next was not always clear. To support manageable growth in chapters, WRCAC began leading strategic planning efforts for state chapters. Strategic planning (defined as a process of creating and documenting a plan for action with prioritized strategies to guide an organization’s work), is particularly useful for chapters experiencing rapid change in resources, structure, and demand for services from their membership, which defines most chapters over the last decade. Strategic planning can play a critical role in guiding changes to staff or board structures, and in identifying available and needed resources.
The strategic planning process begins by understanding where the organization is now and articulating a vision for the future, so a roadmap can be developed that helps guide their work in line with that vision. Implementation often includes redefining board and meeting structures that are oriented toward the plan, working with staff to define benchmarks to monitor progress, and identifying communication pathways with membership. While this service is typically provided in-person, the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to adapt the planning framework to a virtual environment with success as well.
WRCAC believes strong state chapters lead to strong CACs and multi-disciplinary teams and improved outcomes for child abuse victims and their families. Strategic planning is one way we support the growth and development of chapters as leaders within their state. In addition to helping develop strategic plans, we are also committed to providing:

  • Customized training and technical assistance resources

  • Regular opportunities for peer-to-peer networking and learning

  • Annual state chapter forums

  • One-on-one executive coaching for state chapter directors

  • Additional training and other resources specifically designed for state chapter leaders and their staff and board of directors.

For more information about strategic planning and other resources for state chapters, please reach out to me, Patty Terzian, at
Patty Terzian
State Chapter Liaison
Western Regional Children's Advocacy Center
Patty Terzian joined the WRCAC team in April of 2018 and provides training and technical assistance to multidisciplinary team professionals throughout the western region. Prior to coming to WRCAC, she served for nine years as the Executive Director/Statewide Coordinator of the Oregon Network of Child Abuse Intervention Centers (now known as Oregon Child Abuse Solutions), the accredited state chapter of children’s advocacy centers in Oregon. She led the chapter through considerable growth and development and collaborated with professionals across the state to improve services for Oregon’s children when there were concerns of abuse. Patty has nearly twenty years of experience in the non-profit sector developing and directing programs, providing outreach and trainings, and managing grants. Patty’s skills in project coordination, communications and training were honed through her early-career work in both the non-profit and corporate sectors.
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WRCAC is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Grant #2019-CI-FX-K002

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.