California Adopts Innovative Tools to Improve Child Welfare Outcomes

Posted January 18, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog californiaadoptsinnovativetools 2017

Two tech­nol­o­gy-relat­ed non­prof­its, both start­ed with seed mon­ey from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, are gain­ing trac­tion and recent­ly began work in Cal­i­for­nia. Case Com­mons and Kids Insight have been tapped to help improve the state’s capac­i­ty for using data to improve out­comes for chil­dren and fam­i­lies in the child wel­fare system.

Case Com­mons will devel­op an open-source dig­i­tal ser­vice that will replace the intake func­tion of the state’s 20-year-old com­put­er sys­tem, used by child wel­fare pro­fes­sion­als who are inves­ti­gat­ing alle­ga­tions of abuse, neglect and exploita­tion. The new ser­vice will be easy to nav­i­gate and allow staff to record and access key infor­ma­tion to make time­ly, informed deci­sions about child safe­ty. It will use open-source soft­ware to pro­mote flex­i­bil­i­ty and con­tin­u­ous improve­ment in sys­tem design, spec­i­fi­ca­tions and use.

Kids Insight, devel­op­er of the Treat­ment Out­come Pack­age (TOP) for child wel­fare, is pilot­ing its child well-being ser­vice — built on a val­i­dat­ed child behav­ioral health assess­ment tool — in four Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties. The $3 mil­lion con­tract includes test runs in Los Ange­les, Fres­no, San Diego and Tuolumne coun­ties. Devel­oped with sup­port from Casey and The Duke Endow­ment, TOP assess­es and iden­ti­fies changes in children’s social and emo­tion­al well-being. It incor­po­rates the per­spec­tives of chil­dren, care­givers and pro­fes­sion­als and tracks the effec­tive­ness of ser­vices pro­vid­ed by ther­a­pists, clin­i­cians and oth­ers. It is being used by or intro­duced in 16 coun­ties in these states and in Delaware.

Tech­nol­o­gy can bet­ter sup­port every­one from the front office to the front lines” of child wel­fare, says Kath­leen Feely, Case Com­mons CEO, who for this project will part­ner with CGI, Natoma Tech­nolo­gies and Stan­field Systems.

Kids Insight Pres­i­dent Dara Menashi notes a sim­i­lar con­cern for user-friend­ly design. She recent­ly told the Huff­in­g­ton Post: The dri­ving force behind all our devel­op­ment … is the idea that if case­work­ers don’t find [the ser­vice] help­ful they will not use it. We real­ly want this tool to func­tion with­in the way social work­ers and oth­ers have to work day-to-day on the ground.”

Case Com­mons and Kids Insight rep­re­sent two ear­ly Casey invest­ments in tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions that dri­ve sys­tems improve­ments and ben­e­fit chil­dren and families.

Across the coun­try, more and more state lead­ers are rec­og­niz­ing the need for inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy to dri­ve bet­ter data, pol­i­cy and prac­tice,” says Patrick McCarthy, chair of the board of Case Com­mons and pres­i­dent and CEO of the Casey Foun­da­tion. These are excit­ing times, as tech­nol­o­gy helps accel­er­ate the trans­for­ma­tion of human ser­vice systems.”

We are demon­strat­ing that invest­ments in tech­nol­o­gy can real­ly dri­ve improve­ments for kids,” says Tracey Feild, direc­tor of Casey’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. These approach­es help indi­vid­ual kids. But they also give sys­tems a mus­cle they haven’t had before. For look­ing at provider effi­ca­cy and exam­in­ing child well-being across pop­u­la­tions of kids, in TOP’s case. And, with Case Com­mons, for using the pow­er of tech­nol­o­gy to help sys­tems react quick­er and make bet­ter deci­sions. These are impor­tant new tools for help­ing chil­dren and fam­i­lies fare bet­ter in their com­mu­ni­ties and in their inter­ac­tions with child wel­fare systems.”

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