Federal Funding for Truly 21st Century Technology

Posted July 17, 2014, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Recent developments in federal funding for modern technologies could lead to extraordinary opportunities in child welfare.

Last month, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the state of Indiana one of the first-ever waivers as part of an innovative program instruction that paved the way for states to adopt modern, cloud-based and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software to support child welfare agencies.

This pivotal development enables Indiana to request federal funding for key costs of Casebook (developed by our grantee, Case Commons), which is a core component of the state’s child welfare technology platform, the Management Gateway for Indiana's Kids (MaGIK).

The waiver comes about a year after ACF released an important program instruction (ACF-OA-PI-13-01) in June 2013. The program substantially expanded the opportunity for states to receive federal funding when adopting COTS software by detailing a process for states to receive a waiver of regulations concerning proprietary software.

 “We are delighted that Indiana received one of the first-ever federal waivers under this program instruction, benefiting MaGIK, Indiana’s state-of-the-art child welfare solution that includes Casebook as a core component,” said Charles Simon, general counsel and director of policy at Case Commons. “This decision is an exciting step by ACF and a powerful example to other states of what’s possible when it comes to federal funding for modern technologies.”

Indiana is now eligible to request federal funding for key costs of Casebook through the submission of an advance planning document.

“Case Commons had a unique understanding of the child welfare area. They’ve truly been a partner,” said Paul Baltzell, Indiana’s chief information officer. “They were able to adapt to our needs to achieve a successful delivery of the system. Long-term, future capabilities in the system will allow us to have a higher level of success.”

Of course, every application for federal funding is unique. However, as other states seek to leverage federal support to adopt cloud-based and COTS technology, this waiver opportunity has the potential to allow states to measurably improve the quality of service and outcomes for children and families — likely at a much lower cost.

“At Case Commons, we believe that technology will necessarily be at the center of any meaningful effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of child welfare agencies,” said Kathleen Feely, vice president for innovation at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and chief executive officer at Case Commons. “Truly 21st century technology, including advanced analytics, can enhance both day-to-day decision making and long-term policy. States have the power to revolutionize how they pursue the best possible outcomes for vulnerable children and families.”

ACF’s willingness to grant waivers can play a key role in assisting states in accessing 21st century technology to ensure their child welfare agencies are well-equipped to protect those most in need and help them thrive.

We invite child welfare agencies across the country to take a look at this groundbreaking decision and consider how to use technology to best serve your state’s children and families. For more information, please visit Case Commons at casecommons.org.

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