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Our blog isn’t about us. It’s about you. We discuss business challenges and real issues human service agencies and caseworkers face everyday. You’ll find traditional human services software articles about things like document management for human services and social work technology. But you’ll also find inspirational stories to boost caseworkers’ spirits and tools to help agencies find and gain support for technology in human services.

Rich Bowlen's Articles

Rich Bowlen’s goal is and always has been to give his very best day in and day out to do the most good for the most kids. As Director of Protective Services at Northwoods, Rich is dedicated to improving the lives of caseworkers and social workers so they can focus on what they do best: supporting the children, adults, and families that rely on the agency’s care.
Posted Monday, April 27, 2020 by Rich Bowlen

Software to Support Remote Work: 5 Ways Traverse Helps Child Welfare

Technology can never replace human interaction in child welfare. And it shouldn’t. Connecting with children and families is fundamental to improving outcomes and well-being.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused many child welfare agencies to quickly pivot to support a remote workforce, and enable people to connect and share important information in new and different ways. Some child welfare experts predict connecting remotely will become part of the new normal for child welfare through things like video chats, collaboration apps, or instant messaging tools.

Traverse, Northwoods’ child welfare software, is empowering remote work across the country today, while supporting caseworkers’ efforts to provide critical service delivery, in a variety of ways. We put five best practices from agencies using Traverse into a 25-minute webinar. If you’re strapped for time, keep reading below.

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Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2020 by Rich Bowlen

Managing Remote Teams in Human Services

Human services agencies are always adapting to meet the needs of the children, families, and a seemingly constant change in the landscape.

For many of us, from leadership to frontline workers, this has meant adjusting to the reality that as much work as possible must be done outside the agency’s walls to preserve the health and safety of our vulnerable communities.

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Posted Wednesday, July 24, 2019 by Rich Bowlen

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway—5 Ideas to Create Meaningful Change in Child Welfare

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” 
— John F. Kennedy

Life is a series of calculated risks and decisions. We know it pays off to take risks to advance our professional and personal lives, so let me ask you a few questions: why aren’t we doing the same for the children who rely on us? Why are we so hesitant to take bold action on behalf of innocent kids enduring some of life’s most horrific atrocities?

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Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2019 by Rich Bowlen

How to Knock Down Common Productivity Hurdles in Child Welfare

It’s no secret that child welfare social workers are more time-strapped than ever.

This presents a constant challenge for supervisors and directors as well: figuring out how to help workers be productive and drive meaningful outcomes in environments that don’t naturally lend themselves to it.

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Posted Friday, March 1, 2019 by Rich Bowlen

Child Welfare Call to Action: Don't Wait to Innovate

The idea of technology innovation can be simultaneously exciting and overwhelming in child welfare.

On one hand, the potential to impact outcomes with mobility, analytics, or artificial intelligence (AI) is enticing. Imagine how quickly you’ll be able to initiate meaningful supportive services for children and families if you’re not tethered to the office or archaic ways of service delivery. Imagine if you could gain immediate insight from a wealth of historical knowledge to inform quick decisions about safety.

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Posted Thursday, December 6, 2018 by Rich Bowlen

Linking Technology, Dark Data, and Child Welfare Outcomes [ISM Session Recap]

In child welfare agencies across the country, social workers and front-line supervisors encounter significant obstacles when finding the best placement for a child in an emergency, are expected to evaluate every psychotropic medication use in youth in foster care, and face the seemingly impossible task of staying on top of cases that open and re-open over several years.

For some, innovative technology solutions have helped them to overcome these systemic barriers. Implementing a system of engagement designed to increase efficiency and improve service delivery, for example, has helped these agencies to take full advantage of their case content—collecting, analyzing, and displaying the critical data and information needed to make confident decisions about child safety.

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Posted Friday, May 25, 2018 by Rich Bowlen

From Foster Care to Forever Family

Editor's note: Earlier this week, we shared 10 Inspiring Foster Care Success Stories in honor of National Foster Care Month. Today, we have one more story from Rich Bowlen, Northwoods' vice president of protective services.

Rich previously spent 25 years in child and adult protective services working tirelessly to do the most good for the most vulnerable kids, families, and adults. Today, he continues to advocate for social workers who commit themselves to making a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

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Posted Monday, May 7, 2018 by Rich Bowlen

Traverse: Transforming the Way Child Welfare and Adult & Aging Agencies Work with Families to Improve Outcomes

"I'm big on efficiencies and using technology. If you're not using the latest and greatest software, you're behind." – Justin Zmyewski, Houston County (Minnesota) Commissioner

For Northwoods, the “latest and greatest software” means something that’s designed to work the way child welfare and adult & aging agencies work.

That’s why we created Traverse®—a content collection and case discovery solution that empowers child welfare and adult & aging agencies to make informed, confident decisions about safety.

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Posted Thursday, March 15, 2018 by Rich Bowlen

How Does the Opioid Epidemic Impact Child Welfare Caseworkers?

Kristi Burre has spent almost 20 years working in public service and child protection, but she’s never seen a greater need to support her caseworkers than she does today.

As Deputy Director of Fairfield County Child and Adult Protective Services in Ohio, Kristi has a front row seat to watch how the opioid epidemic wreaks havoc both inside and outside the agency’s walls.

As a result, she says, “The needs of our families, the needs of our children, and the needs of our system are more critical than they’ve ever been before.”

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Posted Thursday, September 28, 2017 by Rich Bowlen

What Causes Dark Data in Adult & Aging and Why Do You Need It?

As the population ages, more older adults are accessing services at an alarming rate. Increased demand for services leads to collecting more content in the form of notes, forms, and documents. Every piece of content has the potential to contain critical information about a case, but it gets buried deeper and deeper in the file as new information gets added.

No adult & aging, mental health, or long-term care social worker realistically has time to digest and apply the amount of both current and past information available to them, and “dark data”—critical, but hidden information—gets created as a result.

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