New Technology Streamlines Case Management in Washington State

Article excerpt

After a six-year legal battle, the Washington Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS) settled a multimilliondollar class action lawsuit in 2004 filed on behalf of Jessica Braam and some 3,500 other foster children who had been moved three or more times while in foster care. More than onethird of the children had each been placed in over eight homes.

The setdement required DSHS to make major changes in its system of placing and caring for children in state custody. As a result, DSHS authorized a Children's AdministrationGeographic Information Systems (GIS) Pilot Project for social workers to more effectively track children in the foster care system, including children's geographic relationships to families, schools, community services, transportation, and other important resources. DSHS contracted with Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC), a public health technology information company, and its business partner ESRI to create a more robust case management system with integrated GIS. Based on the pilots success, state officials are now considering permanently replacing their existing system with the new technology.

DSHS Program Manager Pat Brown says, "We saw in the pilot application how data mapping would allow our field staff to visualize the relationships among referrals, biological homes, foster homes, schools, and health providers, to name a few, in ways that would dramatically improve the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in out-of-home care."

A recent Urban Institute study shows 88% of states are currently working to improve their child welfare case management process. case reporting and placement data are often fragmented because of archaic information management systems. …