Safety through connectivity
At any given time more than 3,200 Ohio children await adoptive families. Unfortunately, many social workers who investigate allegations of abuse and neglect lack the tools they need to help.
Thanks to state Efficiency and Innovation Fund grants, 6 Ohio counties are using a mobile social services software application to automate their paperwork processes. This allows the county officials to spend more time focused on helping abused and/or neglected children and their birth, foster or adoptive families achieve better outcomes.
What’s at Stake?
Previously, when a county received a report of possible child abuse or neglect, a social worker would have to complete an assessment to determine if the child can safely remain in the home. If the child must leave the home, the social worker works with the family to find an alternative safe placement, preferably with relatives or another familiar setting. If this fails, the social worker will work with the local court system to put the child in the protective custody of the county’s public children services agency (PCSA)who may then place the child with a foster family.
Recording information is critical in the social work industry and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Without sufficient records, the social worker, local court system and PCSA cannot make proper decisions or accurately track family interactions or placements. It’s also crucial for social workers to build relationships with children and families to help them through these difficult times, which limits the amount of time they spend building records.
In 2013, Ohio did not meet the national standard of 90 percent for visitation of families receiving in-home services, according to the Children Protective Services Funding Workgroup’s “Report to the Director of The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.”
Social workers have stated that nearly 70 percent of their time is consumed by clerical tasks, which jeopardizes their ability to spend time with families during home visits.
Balancing Paperwork and People
To help find a balance, 6 Ohio counties used the grants to implement a mobile social services application from Northwoods’ Compass that leverages the OnBase by Hyland enterprise content management platform. Using the new system, 51 child protective services social workers across the 6 counties access and update documentation using an iPad app from the field, which allows social workers to spend more time with families by reducing the time they spend manually completing required paperwork.
The Child Protective Services Funding Workgroup established the grants for child protective services agencies to target improvements in adoption, visitation, and reoccurrence of maltreatment or re-entry into foster care. The availability of the grants gives smaller counties the ability to take advantage of modern technology that is traditionally more readily accessible by mid-size or larger counties. In addition, the counties used a shared technical and training approach to further reduce costs.
Overall, an anticipated $6.8 million for 51 grants were awarded around the state, including the Department of Job and Family Services agencies or Children Services Boards in Auglaize, Defiance/Paulding, Gallia, Madison, Meigs and Morrow counties.
Since the app was deployed, today the social workers can:
- Answer questions from foster, adoptive, and biological families immediately because they can securely access a client’s electronic records anywhere, with or without the Internet.
- Refer families to community services on home visits because they are completing required local and state forms in the mobile app with the family.
- Capture field notes or documentation quickly to help make informed decisions about child safety.
- Take more pictures to document injuries or living situations, but also to capture photos of siblings or new adoptive families.
Stephanie Palmer, a social services worker for Madison County’s Department of Job and Family Services says the app has helped her tackle the challenges of her job more effectively.
“[It] helps me interact with families in a more positive way,” she says. “I’m better able to have information at my fingertips to provide to families. Families can see that I’m using the information to help keep their children safe.