IT Science Case Study: Automating a Statewide Child Welfare System

The state of Arizona needed to update its legacy case management system because applications and information were inaccessible, resulting in lost productivity. A mobile-first strategy was enacted.

Here is the latest article in the eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.

Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.

These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.

Today’s Topic: Automating a Statewide Child Welfare System

Name the problem to be solved: The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS)—an agency with more than 2,700 employees serving more than 15,000 children—had been operating on a legacy Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) which limited caseworker efficiency and productivity in engaging with children and families.

DCS had three key challenges it needed to solve:

  • Legacy case management system, applications, and information were inaccessible, resulting in lost productivity.
  • Vital case notes and client data could not be updated in real-time, reducing worker efficiency.
  • Paper-based information and files were vulnerable to loss or theft, potentially compromising client data security and privacy.

Describe the strategy that went into finding the solution: DCS took an innovative approach to digital transformation by deploying a modular, “mobile first” strategy to implementing the new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) requirements. By enabling DCS caseworkers to adopt transformative mobile technology into their practice today, workers now can engage more productively with children and families in the field, paper-based processes are obsolete, and client data is stored securely and privately.

When developing their RFP, user-centered feedback was an important component of requirements definition. DCS conducted hours of interviews with caseworkers to deeply understand the needed functionality for the solution that would not only address the agency’s business challenges and deliver the benefits it required, but would also provide a user experience that met the needs of caseworkers.

List the key components in the solution:

  • Diona Mobility enterprise mobility software turns mobile devices—such as smartphones and tablets—into tools to achieve better business and social outcomes. Diona Mobility improves how employees work and collaborate by extending organizational systems and delivering real-time data directly into the field through a cloud-based platform.
  • Diona Mobile Visits: Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), configurable software that provides caseworkers the ability to review, update, and capture essential information about their clients and cases while in the field. Enables mobile access, capture, and integration of case-specific information that social workers and caseworkers rely upon for family and child visits.
  • Diona Mobile Investigations: Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS), configurable software that provides investigators working in Child Welfare, Protective Services, Foster Care, and Adult Protection and Services with mobile access to investigation systems and tools. Investigators gain access to essential data, information, and assessment tools they need to be more effective, make better-informed decisions, and quickly assess risks for vulnerable people.
  • Government SaaS platform delivers security, reliability, and scalability.
  • 1,400 Android tablet devices enable caseworkers to receive and deliver real-time data—anywhere, anytime, whether online or offline.

Describe how the deployment went, perhaps how long it took, and if it came off as planned: DCS implemented the Diona Mobile Visits and Diona Mobile Investigations solutions onto 1,400 tablets. Configured to meet their business requirements and integrated with their SACWIS, the solution extended data and core functionality into the hands of caseworkers through mobile devices.

Diona’s COTS software was easily configured for DCS, including interface “language” needs, system uptime requirements, agency forms display and PDF delivery, UI adjustments, and system properties.

For DCS, what “mobility first” translated to is that they approached the problem from an “agile” philosophy. Rather than developing a monolithic “waterfall” development project to replace their SACWIS that might take years to implement—at significantly greater cost—DCS used the innovations of Agile to implement its mobile solution quickly—and in only eight months.

The solution was implemented in phases, starting in April 2017. Phase 1 implementation of Diona Mobile Visits was deployed in five months, and Phase 2 implementation of Diona Mobile Investigations deployed 3 months later. Deployments were on-time, on-budget and had no major issues.

Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: The solution enabled five critical benefits:

  • Use the investment in their existing case management system.
  • Accelerate the timeline to deliver directly into the field the necessary benefits and functionality of their case management system.
  • Increase the efficiency and productivity of their workforce in the field.
  • Boost system accessibility to 100 percent by delivering offline capabilities.
  • Enhance client engagement by removing the physical barrier of a laptop screen between caseworkers and their clients.

Key Learnings: Often agencies don’t consider the transformation impact a big system replacement will have on their workforce. By approaching mobile first, DCS can make a positive usability impact on its caseworkers by providing usable applications first, then solving the big, back-end issues second – so caseworkers and investigators don’t have to wait to reap the benefits of their CCWIS transformation until after its future completion.

Training and Pre-Deployment Communications were critical and key to their success.

Describe ROI, staff time savings and others:

  • Projected to save $18.7 million annually in departmental costs.
  • Improved caseworker efficiency by 20 percent.
  • Increased field access to Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) to 100 percent.
  • Increased time spent with children and families.
  • Enhanced service quality and case outcomes—previously, child safety specialists were hindered in completing visits as frequently as needed or required. Mobile access improves child safety specialists’ ability to complete visits, capture notes, and issue forms in a timely manner.
  • Improved data quality entered into the case management system.
  • In recognition for their achievements, the Arizona DCS has received the 2018 CIO 100 Award.

Other references:

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...