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Leveraging technology to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families 

By Ruthie Seale, HHS Industry Specialist, Microsoft on May 19, 2016

Filed under Microsoft in Government

Across the nation, child welfare agencies are under pressure to deliver services to vulnerable children and families while relying on aging IT systems. Every year, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to US child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. And in 2014 alone, state agencies identified an estimated 1,580 children—four to five children per day—who died as a result of abuse and neglect.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) proposed regulations for Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS), introducing one of the biggest technology changes for child welfare in decades. The proposed rule will remove the requirement for a single comprehensive system and allow Title IV-E agencies to implement integrated solutions such as Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products that better support current child welfare practices. This new approach is exciting and offers up a world of possibilities for the child welfare business model and the solutions designed to support it.

While many child welfare agencies are relying upon technology from the 1990s, this is a great time for child welfare agencies to examine how modern technology can improve their efforts. Microsoft offers child welfare agencies the choice of an on-premises, hybrid or hosted solution operating securely in our government cloud. The cloud based approach offers significant advantages, including quicker configuration, lower capital costs, and, most importantly, an evergreen environment. This means that the solution platform remains up-to-date as the cloud components are updated regularly and transparently.  The result is there’s less likelihood of the child welfare business solution becoming dated and fragile.

Microsoft provides a configurable platform that reduces development time and increases maintainability.  Our integrated products can be implemented using a modular approach, lowering the risk while providing child welfare agencies quick wins so they can achieve better outcomes for vulnerable children and families. Microsoft spends roughly $12 billion to ensure that these components are ever evolving so they will continue to meet child welfare agencies’ needs.

Microsoft’s solution provides a child centric view and supports case workers at all levels. Once the child welfare agency receives a report of abuse or neglect, child welfare agencies can coordinate an integrated response from. For example:

  • Intake agents can use their laptops to enter information for intake assessments, quickly determining if there are former child abuse reports. Automated assessments allow them to screen in or out the incident. They can also automatically create and route investigation cases to their supervisors.
  • Supervisors can be automatically alerted of high-risk incidents, using online maps and other information to assign investigative workers based on experience, skills, and proximity to the child’s house.
  • Child Protective Service (CPS) workers can use their mobile phones to dictate verbal notes and upload photos and video during their in-home investigations. They can also check their systems for lists of nearby relatives and foster care parents who may be able to temporarily care for at-risk children.

In each case, CPS workers have the up-to-date information they need to effectively perform their jobs. They can use alerts to make sure high-priority cases get addressed immediately, easily capturing and sharing information in real time with others working on the case. Microsoft’s platform also offers an out-of-the box mobile application that gives CPS workers access to case data regardless of their location, resulting in more time spent in the field working with families and children. Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM platform provides an application for iOS, Android, and Windows platforms.

In addition to providing an integrated way of tackling child welfare issues, Microsoft believes that predictive analytics is key to helping child welfare agencies better understand the populations they serve and deliver new insights to their case workers. Microsoft technology makes it possible for child welfare agencies to analyze vast amounts of data so they can be proactive instead of reactive. For example, our machine learning tools provide insights into the best services that will help families increase the likelihood of positive outcomes such as reducing the time to reunification.

Microsoft products allow child welfare agencies to monitor case workers in the field and redeploy them when needed. These products also support texts and video conferencing, allowing case workers to quickly collaborate from their mobile devices. The ability to easily share information with other social services agencies improves outcomes, determining, for example, that a suspected case of child neglect could easily be resolved if the mother had access to childcare or food assistance.

Finally, the Microsoft platform provides more than just the typical child welfare case management capabilities. For example, it supports cutting-edge capabilities such as geo fencing to ensure worker safety. It can also automate marketing to increase the pool of foster care and adoptive parents.

As child welfare agencies update their IT systems, Microsoft offers an effective and cost-effective way for them to modernize their service delivery and tackle their most difficult challenges. To learn more, please see our Microsoft in Government website. Have a question for the author? Contact her via email. Also, look to access our Case Management ebook to learn how the right tools can lead to greater insight and quality interactions.

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