Fairfax County Receives 8 National Achievement Awards
June 29, 2016
The National Association of Counties (NACo) awarded Fairfax County eight 2016 Achievement Awards, which honor innovative, effective county government programs that enhance services for residents. NACo President Sallie Clark, commissioner with El Paso County, Colo., said, “County governments are leading the way in providing better, more innovative services to residents. The National Association of Counties applauds these Achievement Award-winning counties for outstanding efforts to strengthen communities across the country.”
Awards are given in 21 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, environmental protection, information technology, health, civic education and public information and many more. NACo will recognize award-winning counties at its 2016 Annual Conference and Exposition July 22–25 in Los Angeles County, Calif.
Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Award Program is designed to recognize innovative county government programs. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received.
Children and Youth
EAT and RUN Program — Office for Children
Fairfax County Office for Children developed "EAT and RUN", an educational program designed to combat childhood obesity by promoting physical activity and healthy eating in family child care homes. The program helps permitted family child care providers meet the new requirements of the county’s Home Child Care Ordinance, which went into effect in 2013. These requirements include providing adequate space both indoors and outdoors for physical activity, and adhering to age-appropriate nutritional guidelines set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Staff collaborated with Live Healthy Fairfax on the development of the “EAT and RUN” program and book, which features 15 EAT and 15 RUN activities that family child care providers can easily incorporate into their programs. Live Healthy Fairfax, comprised of multiple county agencies and community partners, encourages healthy lifestyle choices.
"EAT and RUN" has also proven to be an effective tool for retaining family child care providers and recruiting others to join the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program, which reimburses them for the nutritious meals they provide to children. To date, more than 453 family child care providers have attended an "EAT and RUN" workshop to learn how to use the book and incorporate the activities in their programs.
Additionally, the book has been shared with other county organizations working with young children, including the Health Department and the Neighborhood School Readiness Teams in Fairfax County; it has been given to CACFP sponsor organizations from across the country; and as staff presents the "EAT and RUN" program at national conferences, it is being enthusiastically adopted as a recruitment and retention tool in other jurisdictions.
Civics Education and Public Information
Fairfax County Government NewsCenter — Office of Public Affairs
Fairfax County Government NewsCenter is a full-fledged editorial service for residents featuring relevant, timely and actionable content written in a unique voice focused almost exclusively on an audience-first mindset. It features a comprehensive digital presence, detailed social media strategy, branding and additional features such as embedded content, weather, traffic and a social media hub. Fairfax County Government NewsCenter represents a shift away from standard press releases. NewsCenter is a platform to tell stories. NewsCenter is a way to reach audiences directly through an owned platform the county manage, while sharing articles on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple News, Flipboard and Google News.
In short, Fairfax County Government NewsCenter represents a move toward "brand journalism" for a local government, in part because the number of journalists covering county government continues to dwindle. We now tell our own stories more directly to our constituents in an easy-to-read, packaged format. The NewsCenter vision statement is simple: “To selectively, package, promote and publish relevant, timely and actionable audience-focused information for our community.”
Employees Equipped for Effectiveness Program — Department of Family Services
It’s rare that budget reductions and enhanced employee morale go hand and hand, yet the Fairfax County Department of Family Services accomplished just such an experience. Using a proactive analysis of office supply purchasing data, employee feedback, and product research, DFS restructured the purchase of standard office supplies. New employees were often confused about which supplies they needed, so instead of new employees ordering their own supplies - some of which could be costly, not needed, or end up going to waste – DFS developed a unique “Welcome Basket” packaged in a recycling bin wrapped in cellophane and sealed with a bow and a note from the department’s director. Through streamlining supply purchases and implementing the Welcome Basket, DFS saved almost $100,000 over the past two years. The agency has achieved unique success by reducing costs while increasing employee morale and demonstrating a commitment to valuing employees.
Customer Resolution Center — Department of
The Fairfax County Department of Family Services transformed an agency office telephone switchboard into a high performance Customer Resolution Center (CRC) capable of resolving client service needs at the first point of contact.
The CRC currently services in excess of 160,000 customers annually, providing information and guidance on over 70 agency-wide programs. In response to rising caseloads and increasing demand for financial and medical assistance (FMA) services within our community, in June 2014 the CRC shifted focus from call routing to call resolution. We enhanced the skill-level of our CRC employees through additional training, received access to the FMA electronic case management system, and integrated subject matter expects within our team who were equipped to respond and resolve FMA case issues. This increased our first point of contact customer resolution by 170 percent within one year, allowing FMA caseworkers outside of the CRC an additional 6,080 hours of time to work on valuable case work activities that would have otherwise been spent answering status and application questions.
The CRC was developed with results-based accountability data, comprehensive analysis, and program service partnerships that can be applied and replicated by other jurisdictions.
Parks and Recreation
Virginia Swims — Fairfax County Park
Virginia Swims is a comprehensive and quality-focused learn-to-swim program that has provided swimming instruction to approximately 150,000 individuals of all ages in Fairfax County since fall 2012. The curriculum was developed through the Virginia Swims Advisory Group (VSAG), a partnership established in 2011 with several regional jurisdictions and organizations, including the Fairfax County Park Authority, Reston Association, Town of Herndon, Town of Leesburg, and the Reston Community Center. When the American Red Cross (ARC) announced a dramatic shift in their pricing structure, the Fairfax County Park Authority was faced with absorbing several hundred thousand dollars in additional expense and a possible a major service disruption for customers. Through collaboration among jurisdictions facing similar challenges, aquatic professionals with more than 137 combined years of experience developed a financially sustainable way (free from licensing fees) to provide quality swim instruction to the community. Quarterly, ongoing evaluations were conducted measuring multiple aspects of customer satisfaction, loyalty and perceptions of value, and instructor quality. Based on thousands of customer responses, customer satisfaction and instructor quality increased after implementation, in addition to continued growth in revenue and registration. The program continues to be developed and is now expanding across the country as a free resource to other jurisdictions.
Personnel Management, Employee Training and Benefits
Employee Lifecycle Retention Program— Department
of Family Services
The Department of Family Services is a multifaceted agency with a workforce of over 1,800 employees serving five distinct divisions (Children Youth and Families, Adult and Aging Services, Self-Sufficiency, Office for Children, and the Office for Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services). As part of Fairfax DFS’s strategic planning, staff reviewed program data, synthesized findings and made recommendations that were instrumental in understanding and supporting our workforce and fostering retention. Five departmental target areas were identified that cut across programs related to employee learning and growth. The findings indicated that we needed to strengthen our:
- Consistency of employee development practices
- Ability to connect employees to learning
- Structural support for learning
- Use of technology for learning
- Focus on effectiveness of employee development
DFS has developed a program that successfully addresses those needs. The Employee Lifecycle Retention Program is the culmination of five years of organizational development and programing designed to take an evidence-based approach to our most valuable service delivery tool: our workforce.
Overhead High Voltage Power Line Safety Training Program —
Risk Management Division
The Risk Management Division (RMD) launched a comprehensive Overhead High Voltage Safety training program in June 2012 that immeasurably enhanced existing employee safety awareness training. RMD established an aggressive campaign focusing on overhead high voltage awareness with the primary goals of protecting employees from risks associated with electrical emergencies, to include loss of life, equipment and/or infrastructure damages due to electrical arcing and fire. Risk Management partnered with Dominion Virginia Power to provide a live demonstration utilizing a mobile overhead power line mock-up that visually depicts numerous scenarios in which employees may be exposed to the destructive power of uncontrolled electrical energy. Training was provided at strategic locations throughout Fairfax County allowing for a wider audience participation of employees, citizens, other local governments and jurisdictions throughout the Northern Virginia region. Under this program, 41 training sessions have been completed with over 1,450 individuals trained to date.
Organizations participating include:
- Office of Emergency Management
- Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments
- Virginia Department of Transportation
- Virginia State Police
- Public Schools
- Loudoun and Prince William Counties
- Cities of Alexandria and Falls Church Police, Fire and Public Works
- Volunteer Groups such as Fire, Police Auxiliaries and Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT)
Volunteer Management System — Office of Public
In 2013, Fairfax County moved to a consolidated, county-wide volunteer management system in order to better recruit, schedule, manage and serve our volunteers. The goal was threefold: To make a better experience for the volunteers and those interested in volunteering. To make the administration of volunteers more productive & efficient for county staff. To allow for centralized accurate reporting by operational unit to management and resident stakeholders. The investment in an enterprise system, which replaces 26 programs in 15 different agencies, improves efficiency and effectiveness for county staff who manage volunteers; residents interested in volunteering; and active volunteers scheduling and tracking their hours. Benefits to volunteers include: Ability to streamline data entry and eliminate duplicate background checks. Ability to easily sign up for opportunities in multiple agencies. Ability to become a resource for emergencies. The program has been a success with more than 18,000 volunteers registering in the system in two years and more than 1,500 individual and group volunteer opportunities available in a one searchable site. As a result of this consolidation, tracking and reporting an unduplicated number of volunteers and the value of their contributions is greatly improved. In 2015, volunteers contributed more than $12 million of services to Fairfax County.