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Improving Child Safety and Service Delivery to Families

Abstract

A state government agency employs more than 900 social workers and coordinates public and private partnerships to protect children against abuse. The agency works to preserve families through foster care, adoption and child welfare services. In 2001, after six years of federal receivership, the agency was reorganized as a cabinet-level agency. Since that time, the agency has been working toward several goals:

  • Recruit and retain social workers to guarantee top-quality services for children and families
  • Investigate abuse and neglect reports to ensure each child's safety
  • Expedite permanency so that every child grows up in a permanent family
  • Recruit and retain foster families so that children are placed in safe environments
  • Promote neighborhood-based resources to inform the public about how local knowledge, churches, community groups and friends can help keep children safe

The Challenge

The agency had a highly successful client/server Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) already in place, but also recognized that child welfare activities are best performed away from the office – with children and their families. This initiated a move to make the current system Web-based, with the vision of addressing the following limitations of the client/server system:

  1. Improve child safety and service delivery to families
  2. Bring workers closer to the community
  3. Allow access by all users from anywhere there is Internet access (i.e, court, home, children’s hospital, etc.)
  4. Make it easier for providers to record key information in the system

The agency contracted with Deloitte Consulting LLP in October 2004 to develop and deploy a new Web-based .NET application to support the system’s use from any location with an Internet connection. It was a challenge to move the client/server system to a Web-based .NET 1.1 systems environment while preserving the stability and maturity of the current application. Deloitte devised a strategy to first document and then reconstruct the existing client/server application into an n-tired application. The approach provides flexible design for future maintenance and enhancements and improved scalability and portability.

In parallel, Deloitte worked with the agency to determine the requirements for system enhancements in three key areas:

  • Intake and investigation. This functionality assists agency personnel in dealing with initial reports of child abuse or neglect
  • Provider and contracts. This functionality deals with the management of contracted providers of services to children in the custody of the agency
  • Workflow. This functionality manages the transfer of work through the organization.

How We Helped

The new .NET application was implemented in February 2006. From the start, the new system was engineered with system usability in mind. Deloitte contracted with a third party software ergonomics vendor to produce an attractive and engaging user experience.

In July 2007, considering longer life span of latest technology and better server performance, the agency granted Deloitte permission to upgrade from .NET 1.1 to .NET Framework 3.0. The .NET Framework 3.0 was implemented in March 2008 and sets the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). The new .NET Framework 3.0 also includes a built-in business process workflow and custom controls, along with an embedded AJAX technology to further enhance the user experience. Deloitte is currently contracted to provide ongoing maintenance support of the new application.

Solution

The new system eased the challenges of transition from a client/server application to a Web-based application by designing a user interface that helped in faster orientation of the users with the Web-based application.

Today, the new system is successfully supporting social workers and agencies in:

  • Case management activities, such as documenting contacts/visits, writing case plans and court reports
  • Issuing payments to service providers
  • Collecting data to produce outcome-based management
  • Standardizing policy and practice

Ultimately, the system is helping improve outcomes by taking many of the administrative burdens off the agency. The agency has removed many of the data entry tasks associated with recording foster care placements from the social workers’ shoulders by outsourcing data entry to the providers of out-of-home care. Data quantity and quality have increased markedly, with an associated benefit of reducing overpayments to those providers. There are more than 1,600 registered users of the application, including caseworkers and supervisors, fiscal and eligibility personnel, family court staff and providers of child welfare services.

In addition, the system has enabled the agency to collect and disseminate information to diverse audiences including the court monitor, the mayor’s office and federal oversight agencies such as the General Accounting Office, Administration of Children and Families, and Congress.

The system is the first Web SACWIS application in the United States to be federally certified through the Administration for Children and Families. The system is also presently being deployed in a southern state and a large U.S. county. In all, Deloitte has six successfully implemented SACWIS projects and the most (four) federally approved SACWIS systems in the market.

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