In parallel with the evolution of technology, policy and practice models continue to change to meet both regulatory requirements and best practices as understood through quantitative and qualitative research. We asked Elisha Gilliam, Director of Practice Integration, Casebook PBC / Senior Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation about the challenges and impact of new technologies. 
Since the implementation of major IT systems for child welfare and other human services, have practice models changed? 

Practice models and approaches in child welfare are ever changing. Research, federal policy changes, and societal shifts make it necessary for practice models to shift to meet the needs. These new practice models aim to produce good outcomes for vulnerable children, families, and communities. IT systems have made it possible to gain access to data in order to evaluate what works and what’s not working in the field. 

What challenges do personnel have with their legacy systems and implementing new practice elements within them? 

When I speak to both agency leaders and frontline staff, they often complain about how cumbersome it is to input data into their legacy systems. They also express concerns about the validity of the data they can retrieve. The current IT systems don’t allow for easy changes as policies change. Often to accommodate shifts in a policy, they tend to build workarounds to capture data until changes in their system can be made. These workarounds can be a big challenge in our county-administered systems since they have must send those requests up to the state level IT department to make adjustments. By the time that change is made, the local jurisdiction may have moved on to a new practice change. 

When agencies must accommodate policy changes with rigid legacy systems, what operational impacts can occur? 

When IT systems can’t be easily adjusted to support practice changes, it takes a toll on staff and the financial resources of the agency. They often have had to purchase additional software products to create what’s needed to capture data, which also requires staff to use multiple products. One of the most significant sacrifices for child welfare front line workers is time away from working with the families and children who need their support, because the worker spends substantial time completing administrative duties on often inflexible systems. 

What can software solution companies keep in mind, when developing for human service agencies, based on the feedback you’ve received? 

Create software products that give child welfare professionals the flexibility to make adjustments to workflows, documents, and data metric priorities as their practice evolves. The products should be an enhancement that supports social workers in doing their jobs, improving the availability and accessibility of accurate and immediate information necessary to improve decision-making.  

What is crucial in human services IT systems built for the future? 

IT systems need to be nimble, as practice is ever evolving because society, policies, and resources are ever changing. They need to have access to the most up to date, and accurate information; it is crucial to serving the needs of families. While the mission of child welfare is the same across the country, the approach varies, but IT systems should have the ability to support best practice standards while creating space for nuanced differences and practice innovations.

Casebook PBC is a public benefit corporation that develops transformative software to help agencies improve the lives of those they serve. Talk to us today and discover how Casebook can help agencies utilize configurable software to help their community.