Magazine article Policy & Practice

Knowledge Is Power

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Knowledge Is Power

Article excerpt

The ability to accurately track children In care can help keep them safe

Child welfare agencies are responsible for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Children in care are often shuffled between natural parents, foster parents, relatives and group homes. Often, this makes it difficult to determine the exact location of each child at any given moment. Being able to accurately track the whereabouts of these children can help keep them safe.

SACWIS (Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System) aims to record the movement of children among parents, providers, agencies and relatives, but this is only useful if caseworkers enter the data as location changes occur. The reality is that they cannot. Most caseworkers are overstretched providing services to children and their families. When location data are entered, it is often several days later, leaving the child in a vulnerable information limbo, where the only individuals who really know the location of the child are that single caseworker and the placement provider.

This situation can be improved by recognizing that certain parties in this process, in addition to the caseworker, are naturally motivated to keep up-todate child location information: the placement providers. After all, unless that information is current, providers will have a difficult time justifying payment requests for children in their placement.

To address this, we drew inspiration from commercial web sites-most notably the airlines, which allow customers to directly interact with the airline booking system and check themselves in on the day of travel. We extended the borders of our web-based SACWIS (faces.net, developed in partnership with Deloitte Consulting) beyond the agency to encompass providers of child placement services. Whenever a child enters or leaves a placement provider's facility, that provider can immediately record the placement information in the SACWIS. The updated location information is immediately available to caseworkers, their supervisors and executive management. Our location information is usually no more than a few hours old.

These results were highly encouraging. So, the district further extended its SACWIS functionality to allow providers to electronically submit invoices and monitor payments following their entry of child location data. …

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