Casebook Gaining Recognition as Game Changer in Child Welfare Technology

Posted December 2, 2015, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog casebook installment1 2015

This is the first in a four-part series about Case­book, a state-of-the-art tool to help child wel­fare work­ers track and improve results for chil­dren in their care. In this series, learn about the issues Case­book was designed to address, the chal­lenges it has over­come and the promis­ing results it is begin­ning to yield in Indi­ana, the first state imple­ment­ing the tech­nol­o­gy platform.

Part 1: The Inspiration

The Casey Foun­da­tion under­stands that get­ting the right data in the right people’s hands is cru­cial to social change. In the spir­it of founder Jim Casey, who relied on con­stant mea­sure­ment and data analy­sis to grow his mes­sen­ger ser­vice into the glob­al, mul­ti-bil­lion dol­lar UPS, a rig­or­ous focus on gaug­ing progress and results is inte­gral to Foun­da­tion ini­tia­tives. KIDS COUNT, for exam­ple, has become a nation­al barom­e­ter for how well states are serv­ing chil­dren and a pow­er­ful lever for pro­mot­ing pol­i­cy reforms.

Data sys­tems built from the best avail­able tech­nol­o­gy are crit­i­cal to all these efforts. But in the nation’s child wel­fare are­na, progress has long been con­strained by cum­ber­some and out­dat­ed sys­tems that lim­it the infor­ma­tion front-line work­ers can read­i­ly access and share to make crit­i­cal deci­sions about kids.

Tra­di­tion­al child wel­fare sys­tems don’t pro­vide the rich data about all of the con­nec­tions a child has — not just to his or her par­ents, but to extend­ed fam­i­ly mem­bers, oth­er care­givers and school lead­ers — to under­stand what that child has been through as they have trav­eled through the sys­tem,” notes Lisa Hamil­ton, Casey’s vice pres­i­dent of exter­nal affairs.

In an already stress­ful envi­ron­ment where children’s lives are at stake, out­dat­ed tech­nol­o­gy fuels job dis­sat­is­fac­tion and high staff turnover. It hin­ders case­work­ers’ abil­i­ty to best serve kids and stymies offi­cials’ best efforts to spear­head reform.

In 2009 the Foun­da­tion launched Case­book, which har­ness­es the pow­er of the Inter­net and cloud com­put­ing to trans­form child wel­fare infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy. Case­book equips case­work­ers with an easy-to-use dash­board that they can log into from any com­put­er or mobile device to pri­or­i­tize key tasks, record data and access an array of infor­ma­tion about the chil­dren they are serv­ing, their con­nec­tions and needs. To devel­op, test and pro­mote the prod­uct, Casey launched a spin­off non­prof­it called Case Com­mons, based in New York City and staffed by high-lev­el prod­uct devel­op­ers, soft­ware engi­neers, web design­ers and child wel­fare experts.

Kath­leen Feely, vice pres­i­dent for inno­va­tion at Casey and chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Case Com­mons, first con­ceived the idea when she saw her daugh­ter inter­act­ing with friends on her social net­work­ing site. It occurred to her that a web-based sys­tem built on sim­i­lar prin­ci­ples would be a major break­through for social work­ers, who help fam­i­lies cre­ate social net­works in their communities.

What sets Case­book apart is that the sys­tem is designed to sup­port the work­er rather than the oth­er way around. We put you at the cen­ter of tech­nol­o­gy so that you can get the answers that you need and your work­ers can get the infor­ma­tion that they need to make the best deci­sions pos­si­ble,” says Feely. The sys­tem is also designed to con­tin­u­al­ly respond to new needs, and the Case Com­mons team pro­vides ongo­ing con­sul­ta­tion, sup­port and customization.

A major advan­tage the team had was the abil­i­ty to pilot and refine Case­book with social work­ers in New Eng­land employed by Casey Fam­i­ly Ser­vices, the Foundation’s for­mer pri­vate child wel­fare agency.

Nicole Tec­co Reece, chief prod­uct offi­cer at Case Com­mons, says the part­ner­ship with Casey Fam­i­ly Ser­vices helped Casebook’s process­es. Through that col­lab­o­ra­tion, we learned so much about the chal­lenges of the case man­agers and front­line work­ers,” she notes.

We real­ly help states dig into their data, con­nect the dots, and solve prob­lems so they can get beyond pol­i­cy and prac­tice by anec­dote,” says Andrea Hollen, direc­tor of data-dri­ven prac­tice for Case Commons.

Next: Chal­lenges and Obstacles

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