The Field Center was awarded a multiple year grant from the Hite Foundation to explore the shortfalls and challenges in management information systems currently in use in the child welfare system nationally and to develop a model for a real-time system that would provide both management and workers in the field with the tools they need to protect victims of child abuse and neglect. The Field Center identified the development of a real-time accessible management information system as a priority in advancing the field of child welfare.
After researching the state-of-the-art in the use of technology in child welfare applications, the Field Center designed and completed a research study which surveyed child welfare administrators, workers, and technology directors nationwide on the use of technology to support in-home child welfare decision-making, examining the limits, needs and challenges which currently exist.
The Field Center hosted a day-long national Child Welfare Summit on Information Technology at the Penn Club in New York on March 2, 2007. The summit brought together experts from multiple arenas to explore the need for a transparent and effective means of managing information and improve accountability in the child welfare system. The goal of the summit was to establish the foundation for the eventual development of a casework management information system that can track cases in real time and alert supervisors and agency officials as to gaps or inadequacies in casework services and monitoring and provide workers in the field with critical case information. Participating in the summit were 25 key leaders and representatives from the public and private sectors from around the country including commissioners, technology and program staff from multiple child welfare systems, child welfare information technology experts, U.S. House of Representatives staff, business and philanthropy leaders, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Casey Strategic Consulting Group, and Field Center child welfare experts.
Three task forces were identified to further explore issues that emerged from the March Summit. These task forces covered the topics of Site Selection and Development, Steps and Strategies for Implementation, and Interoperability.
The Field Center convened a follow-up session to their 2007 Child Welfare Summit on March 25, 2008. Participants came to the table to advance the discussion on potential implementation of a pilot model of a management information system that would provide real-time access to critical information for both child welfare caseworkers and management as well as the sharing of data across child and family-serving systems.
Gathered at New York’s Penn Club, along with the Field Center’s interdisciplinary team, were Bill O’Leary, Director of Health and Human Services for Microsoft Corporation, Martin Elisco, Systems Engineer for Motorola Corporation, Richard Jacobsen of the Institute for Social Capital at the University of North Carolina and former Director of Mecklenberg County (NC) Department of Social Services, Daniel Stein, Michael Smith, and Gerry Pape, principals of Stewards of Change, Lynette Hassinger, Director of Information and Data Management and Cathy Utz, Director of the Bureau of Policy and Program Development for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Office of Children, Youth and Families, Laurie O’Connor, Director and Frank DiDomizio, CFO/CIO of the Montgomery County (PA) Office of Children and Youth, and Joseph Roynan, Director of Human Services for Montgomery County (PA).
Participants in this day-long session discussed the need for systemic culture change to embrace interoperability. A consumer-centric model of technology development will bridge traditional silos and result in a truly interoperable system that can share critical information across systems of care. By merging business thinking with technology, child welfare systems are able to access needed data that will ultimately inform decision-making. Software capability currently exists that can address the broad needs of child welfare interoperability. In addition, hardware is available to meet the real-time needs of caseworkers and their supervisors, including the soon-to-be required documentation of visiting children in care.
The Field Center is convening experts and leaders, led by Stewards of Change, to develop a replicable model of an interoperable management information system with hand-held, real-time capability to be piloted in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. By providing caseworkers and managers with critical, timely information, informed decision-making and better accountability can be realized.