family services work flow case work

Modular solution helps states incrementally upgrade case management

Child welfare agencies that are laboring under expanded workloads and outdated technology can now modernize operations with a modular, cloud-based system for case work management. 

Unisys' FamilyNow product suite works with legacy systems, and its modular design makes it easy for agencies to decide which parts of the case process they want to modernize. There are separate modules for intake, investigation, case, provider, financials and administration.

States can't afford $100 million or more “to do a large rip and replace contract,” Mark Forman, global head, vice president and general manager for public sector at Unisys, told GCN. “We think the modular approach, which started during the Obama administration, is the right way to go for most state systems.”

FamilyNow is built to be compliant with Department of Health and Human Services Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System requirements, which support the use of improved technology to better support current child welfare practice.  The CCWIS requirements, which went into effect in August 2016, are intended to help agencies address changes in technology for case worker systems by introducing more flexible, modernized systems that support the efficient, economical and effective administration of child welfare plans.

“The CCWIS requirements surround the modularity, architecture and certainly the data and data quality standards for case management,” Denise Winkler, senior engagement manager at Unisys, said.  “All states are now looking at any new systems being CCWIS compliant or they are going to need to look at new developments.”

The FamilyNow suite also lets case workers take advantage of mobile tools in the field.  The ability to use a cell phone to take photos and record conversations, for example, creates a more comfortable experience for workers who might be dealing with sensitive situations on their toughest cases, Winkler said.

FamilyNow also gives workers a panic button they can use when investigating abuse allegations to bring in law enforcement without putting themselves in danger.

“Workers used to have to practice dialing 911 with their phones in their pockets,” Winkler said.  “If a family is known to have a history or assault or violence, there will also be an indicator on that case so the worker can be proactive and not only reactive when protecting themselves.”

Through the platform's dashboards and data analytics tools, case workers can analyze certain indicators to determine possible unsafe home environments and tap into multiple sources to find welfare, social service and health programs that provide the best solution for families. 

FamilyNow was built for child and adult protective services and also can be used to support community mental health and juvenile justice programs. Forman said he believes the system also has the ability to address the growing opioid epidemic spreading across the country.

“The opioid epidemic has caused a dramatic increase with the number of children coming into the system, especially in the foster care system,” Forman said.  “When you have a massive influx of cases, there’s no time to prepare, and states can’t automatically hire tons of new case workers. So having data analytics tools and techniques can help agencies manage with less resources.”

The FamilyNow system was based on Unisys' work to build the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System. 

“This is a new version of that technology with pieces of technology and modules we have been operating over the past few years,” Forman said.  “We are architected to fit today’s technology and take advantage of digital capabilities ... in ways that we have haven’t done before today’s technology appeared.”

The FamilyNow system is not currently in operation in Michigan.

The Unisys solution is run through open application programming interfaces, using an open standards approach in order to reduce costs.

“By us adopting the open standards approach, there is still maintenance [for agencies], but it’s only on the side of the interaction with the system” Forman said.  “It suddenly decreases the cost and accelerates the time to deploy.”

FamilyNow customers can run the modules in their Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure clouds.  In cases where criminal justice requirements come into play, Forman said he sees the government cloud environment being more useful to agency customers. 

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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