Hamilton County JFS has been recognized with an Achievement Award for innovative technology from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that enhance services for residents.
NACo recognized HCJFS’ use of iPads to eliminate duplication of reporting of monthly child welfare visits and improve documenting in the state database. It is one of three HCJFS programs to receive a NACo award this year. Keep watching here for stories about the other two awards.
This innovation provided a solution to a pestering problem that has a positive impact on the service delivered and the workforce delivering it. The fact that it involves technology makes it all the more fitting for an innovation award.
NACo President Bryan Desloge said, “Counties overcome complex challenges, provide essential services and constantly do more with less. We applaud these Achievement Award-winning counties for outstanding efforts to improve residents’ quality of life.”
Nationally, NACo awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.
HCJFS had two problems springing from the same source: required monthly visits with families.
The first problem was a duplicative process of documenting those visits. Workers were required to both fill out a paper receipt that must be signed and to document the visit in the State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS).
The duplication was burdensome, which led to the second problem: many workers were either significantly delayed or forgot their automated documentation entry and focused on the paper that required the signature. Without the automated documentation, state assessments of the county’s visitation compliance were much lower than what was actually occurring.
A team including David Wittenauer and Jane Huesman from Quality Assurance; Susan Adkins, Cheryl Cipollone, Kris Flinchum, Dustin Kendall and Amy Story from Information Systems, and Traci Marr, Eric Young, Carolyn Patton, Deana Coddington and Mary Eck from Children’s Services, worked on a solution.
The agency attacked this problem from a retention angle – make the job easier. Any solution would have the added bonus of improving visitation compliance.
The agency’s child welfare and Information Systems’ teams developed a solution centered around iPads which the agency first purchased and rolled out to field workers in 2012. The Board of County Commissioners had approved more than $200,000 to be spent on iPads for field workers to allow them to work more quickly and efficiently.
In March of 2016, the state of Ohio enabled SACWIS, the state’s automated child welfare information system, to work with mobile technology. This increased the value of the iPads in field work and made them the focal point of creating an automated solution to the visitation problem.
The agency purchased OnBase Mobile Access for the iPads for about $6,500. Members of the agency’s Information Systems team then began integrating the technology with SACWIS. The agency’s OnBase expert, Susan Adkins, worked an estimated 220 hours on the project over a seven-month period. Integrating OnBase and SACWIS was not only going to lead to a solution to the visitation problem, but would permit the workers to more efficiently do many other daily tasks.
Developers created an online visitation receipt that automatically populated when a worker entered visitation information into SACWIS. This eliminated the need for a paper receipt, as parents could read and sign off on the information via the iPad.
One other benefit to the new solution: other workers and managers had access to real-time information when looking for case details or trying to make important decisions. No longer did they have to track the worker down and have them verbally download case notes and details from their head or from their hand-written notes.