Last week we attended the APHSA National Summit. Throughout the agenda and in our conversations, there was the over-arching theme that “now is the time for change” along with the recurring message that innovative thinking and technology must enable that change.
Central to the theme of change was the recognition that agencies and practices must become more data-driven. Nowhere is the possibility for data-driven change more promising than child welfare. Child welfare data can improve quality of contact with families, more quickly identify social determinants impeding outcomes, monitor fidelity to practice, better inform decisions, enable meaningful reports to stakeholders that can be used to identify national trends and best practices, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.
However, this is only true if agencies have a complete view of both structured and unstructured data such as case notes, and can use both sources to inform decision making. Augintel customer, Tracy Rohrdanz, Business Applications Analyst with Allegheny County DHS said it best, “There is rich data in the notes. Those notes tell the story of that family.” A sound strategy for accessing unstructured data in a meaningful way should be part of any strategy to become more data-driven. This must be accompanied by a plan to make the data easily available to everyone who needs it, when they need it. Child welfare teams have long been burdened with clunky technology. Data and usability must go hand in hand to achieve transformative goals.
Savvy leaders know that a combination of innovative thinking, enabling technology, and federal funding create a golden opportunity to create state child welfare systems that empower the workforce to make better informed decisions, while at the same time making routine tasks easier to perform. Through this work, caseworkers spend more quality time with children and families, and for the first time, leaders can make data-driven decisions based on narrative data. That’s change that matters.