VCE October 2016
As a part of the larger Texas community interested in protecting vulnerable citizens, DFPS must responsibly engage stakeholders in the planning, delivery, and evaluation of its programs and services. Community stakeholders provide DFPS clients with access to a much broader range of resources than DFPS alone can provide; therefore, stakeholder participation and input is critical to improving client outcomes.
To ensure that community engagement progress is informed by community partners, DFPS seeks opportunities:
• to involve stakeholders in community engagement planning; and
• for ongoing stakeholder involvement in various initiatives.
This may include conducting special focus groups for identifying solutions to problems, and developing methods for including stakeholders in new policy development.
Staff throughout DFPS interact with stakeholders on a regular basis. Staff should ensure purposeful stakeholder participation by researching and employing best practices in stakeholder engagement.
These practices include, but are not limited to, the following:
• Participate in collaborative exchanges – not just when DFPS needs assistance, but also when stakeholders need DFPS assistance.
• All round tables, public meetings, or other stakeholder exchanges conducted by DFPS should have a meeting protocol or guidelines that include purpose, scope, frequency, membership, and agenda development. Tailor the meeting to meet specific goals.
• All stakeholder planning processes should be examined for opportunities to include faith-based or senior citizen participants.
• Include stakeholders at the beginning of a planning process, rather than after a solution is identified. Have the issue clearly identified, and be open to stakeholder ideas.
• Think through what your goals are and have a plan to reach them.
• Ask stakeholders for feedback – Was the goal clearly defined? How could participation have been increased? What would make the event more meaningful?
The following general best practices build upon and strengthen external relationships:
• Ensure there is two-way communication between DFPS and the stakeholder.
• Be aware of the capabilities and limitations of the stakeholder.
• Make the stakeholder aware of the capabilities, limitations, and needs of DFPS.
• Ask the stakeholder what can be done to build upon and strengthen the relationship from their point of view.
VCE October 2016
When a more formal agreement is reached between DFPS and a stakeholder to work together towards shared goals on a specific project, stakeholders are more often referred to as a partner.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is established between DFPS and each partner with whom confidential client information or resources will be shared. The MOU clearly details the roles and responsibilities of each party. When forming partnerships in the community, it is important that applicable DFPS policies and the parameters of the partnership be fully explained and understood by the partner before signing an MOU. The MOU must be developed and maintained as described in the DFPS Contract Handbook, 3.8 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
MOUs are typically used for:
• Resource Rooms
MOUs include sections that can be customized to meet individual partnership needs; however, MOU modifications must be approved by the contracts attorneys in the Office of General Counsel.
VCE October 2016
DFPS has the legal authority to establish advisory committees.
The law defines an “advisory committee” as a committee, council, commission, task force, or other entity with multiple members that has as its primary function advising a state agency in the executive branch of state government.
DFPS may also establish workgroups to advise DFPS, which are time-limited and less formal than advisory committees.
A workgroup or committee composed entirely of DFPS or HHS employees is not considered an advisory committee and is not required to follow the procedures outlined below.
VCE October 2016
Before establishing an advisory committee or workgroup, DFPS program staff should determine whether the stakeholder group will be needed to provide input to DFPS regarding a one-time project or short-term program or initiative, or whether DFPS would benefit from establishing a long-term stakeholder group to advise DFPS on an ongoing basis.
Consult with the Office of Volunteer and Community Engagement for guidance if needed.
VCE October 2016
If the Associate Commissioner for the program area determines that the stakeholder group will be needed to provide input to DFPS regarding a one-time project or short-term program or initiative, the program may establish a workgroup.
Examples of when a workgroup may be appropriate include, but are not limited to:
• Obtaining stakeholder input while developing DFPS rules or policy
• Soliciting input regarding a research or pilot project
A workgroup may develop a charter that describes its purpose and basic operation if necessary.
VCE October 2016
If the Associate Commissioner for the program area determines that the stakeholder group will be needed to advise DFPS on a continuing basis, with a plan to meet regularly over a period of two or more years, an advisory committee must be established in the Texas Administrative Code (i.e., agency rules). The Associate Commissioner must submit an action memo to the Commissioner outlining the need for the committee and its proposed duration.
The memo should include:
• the proposed advisory committee’s purpose and tasks - including how the committee will report its recommendations to DFPS;
• the proposed size, membership categories, and qualifications;
• the expected duration of the committee and the members’ terms of office;
• whether travel reimbursement of member expenses is recommended; and
• the DFPS staff position that would act as the liaison for the committee.
The program liaison for the committee will work with OVCE and Legal to propose rules for the new committee. The rules should follow the format found in 40 TAC §§702.501 – 702.515 and should contain the committee’s:
• purpose and tasks;
• reporting requirements (how the committee will report or make recommendations to DFPS)
• number of members;
• appointment procedures and terms for members;
• membership categories and qualifications, including requirements relating to experience and geographic representation;
• meeting schedule (for example, “the committee will meet at least quarterly”);
• decision-making process (consensus, majority vote, etc.);
• applicability of the Open Meetings Act; and
• date of abolishment.
The following legal requirements must be considered in establishing a committee.
• The advisory committee should be composed of a reasonable number of members not to exceed 24.
• The committee members should represent diverse geographic, experiential, and cultural backgrounds from across the state.
• The committee should be subject to the Open Meetings Act, Texas Government Code Chapter 551, unless there is a reason why it should be exempt.
• Advisory committees should generally keep attendance records, take minutes, and adopt bylaws regarding how the committee will operate.
• The advisory committee must comply with the other provisions outlined in TAC §702.501 – §702.505 regarding:
• election of a presiding officer; and
• conflicts of interest.
Reimbursement of members’ expenses
The members of the advisory committee may only be reimbursed for their expenses by DFPS through the:
• the General Appropriations Act; or
• the budget execution process. However, the budget execution process is only used if the advisory committee is created after this can no longer be addressed in the General Appropriations Act.
Evaluation and reporting
Texas law requires a state agency that has established an advisory committee to annually evaluate:
• the committee’s work;
• the committee’s usefulness; and
• the costs related to the committee’s existence, including the cost of agency staff time spent in support of the committee’s activities.
DFPS also has to report to the Legislative Budget Board the information developed in the evaluation required above, and file the report biennially in connection with the agency’s request for appropriations. The OVCE will work with HHSC to submit this information.
Committee staff liaisons should be prepared to submit information regarding the evaluation and reporting to the OVCE upon request.