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Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2018 by Team Northwoods

Child Welfare Shining a Light on Dark Data to Improve Safety

Child Welfare Shining a Light on Dark Data to Improve Safety

DUBLIN, OH—April 25, 2017—For child welfare social workers, understanding a child’s whole story can feel impossible. However, the best predictor of a child’s future safety is a thorough understanding of that child’s detailed past, including prior abuse or neglect situations, people connected to the family and major events.

Starting today, new technology called Traverse® exists to help social workers shine a light on dark data to make more confident and informed decisions about a child’s future safety.

"Children have always needed us, but I think they need us more now than they ever did because of the way the world is. Traverse will help workers be able to do more social work and less paperwork," said Karen Wolfe, permanency supervisor, Fairfield County Child and Adult Protective Services.

The problem is that the digital age has dramatically increased the volume of information, which is coming at social workers faster than they can manage. A typical child welfare case file includes 4,000-5,000 pages of information . Even worse, an estimated 80 percent of case content—called “dark data”—is hidden or virtually impossible to retrieve, and too often it cannot be utilized by agency staff when making safety decisions for children.

Traverse from Northwoods is a case discovery platform that automatically analyzes case files. Social workers can view specific information including:

  • People connected to the child, including relatives, positive supports and possible placement options
  • Major topics in current and past cases, such as domestic violence or psychotropic medications
  • Key events, such as every time a child moved
  • Related entities, such as facilities, services and dangers like weapons
  • Insights into trends across the agency, such as the opioid epidemic’s impact on foster care

When social workers do not have access to the information they need, the children they serve are at risk for further trauma.

Traverse empowers social workers with critical information quickly. Social workers can view content, topic word clouds and event timelines to quickly come up to speed on what has and is happening in the case to:

  • understand family and non-family connections, safety concerns and strengths when investigating abuse or neglect;
  • quickly respond to on call and emergency situations;
  • find the best placement for children the first time to reduce the number of moves and trauma;
  • better prepare for court hearings, family team meetings and adoption; and
  • identify and address community trends contributing to child maltreatment, such as mental illness or substance abuse.

“Traverse is an amazing tool to empower social workers with the right and most critical information for each family they serve to help them make tomorrow safer than today for every child,” said Rich Bowlen, vice president, protective services.

For more information, learn about Traverse or view real stories from social workers.

About Northwoods
Northwoods’ only focus is helping state and county human services agencies increase client service levels and productivity while cutting costs — allowing them to be more effective and do more with less. Northwoods’ human services software solutions are designed around caseworkers and social workers, not simply data collection. Our Compass® products automate the flow of client and case information based on how caseworkers throughout the agency need to use it. Northwoods is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. For more information, visit


Tiffany Himmelreich