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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, 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 to empower child welfare and adult & aging caseworkers with the right information at the right time to make informed, confident decisions.

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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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Posted Tuesday, June 13, 2017 by Rich Bowlen

What Causes Dark Data in Child Welfare? [Infographic]

Finding specific evidence to conclusively support a decision can be overwhelming, if not impossible, for child welfare social workers, supervisors, and directors.

Just think about it: if social workers were only responsible for one case, they (in theory) could spend all their time familiarizing themselves with the information in just that one case. Then, when it came time to make an important decision, they could feel confident about the intimate details of the child, family, or situation in question, and know exactly where to find the data they’d need to support their claim. But that’s not the case.

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Posted Tuesday, April 25, 2017 by Rich Bowlen

Traverse Case Discovery: Confident Decisions. Safer Children and Families.

Finding the best placement the first time for a child coming into care is every foster care or kinship social worker’s mission. But that’s easier said than done when you only have a partial understanding of the child’s story. What if you could uncover a complete history of previous placements, medications, behavioral issues, and other key information to shape your decision? 

Maybe you’re new to the case or an on call social worker required to immediately find a safe place for a child to stay the night. With little time and a lot at stake, you need a complete understanding of the family and case in a moment’s notice. What are the important medical and emotional needs? What can help minimize trauma? 

Imagine if a child's case file could talk to you. Imagine if you could gain immediate insights from a wealth of historical knowledge to make quick decisions about safety and lessen the hurt just a little.

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Posted Tuesday, March 21, 2017 by Rich Bowlen

10 Tips on Self-Care for Social Workers

Social workers often spend so much of their time advocating and standing up for children and families that they sometimes overlook the importance of taking care of themselves. While the rewards of being a social worker are plentiful, the job can take its tollmentally and physically.

Here are 10 simple ways social workers can practice self-care, manage stress and burnout, and boost their well-being even on the most difficult days.

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Posted Sunday, January 15, 2017 by Rich Bowlen

Dark Data is Hiding in Your Child Welfare Case Files

It is unrealistic for anyone in child welfare to remain constantly up to date on every case, especially when so much of the information is hiding in the dark. Yet, everyone expects the child welfare social worker to do just that.

Think about it: the average case file contains over a thousand documents, or approximately four to five thousand pages of informationand it's being added to every day by countless entities. On top of that, workers are managing an average 24-31 cases each.

How can a worker be expected to find the right information as quickly as necessary when they have to sift through so much information to find it?

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Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Rich Bowlen

Debunking Common Child Welfare Social Work Myths and Misperceptions

Social workers do too much. Social workers don’t do enough. Social workers make decisions on a whim. Social workers tear families apart.

If someone doesn’t understand the intricacies of working with families involved in a child welfare case, or realize the roller coaster of emotions felt when making decisions that affect a child’s life, it’s easy to make assumptions and judgments about what social workers do.

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Posted Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Rich Bowlen

Understanding and Applying the Human Services Value Curve

Last month, a few Northwoodians attended APHSA’s National Health & Human Services Summit. We attended sessions focused on predictive analytics, preventative care, improving outcomes, and integrating services, all of which had one theme in common: transforming the industry through the Human Services Value Curve.

What is the Human Services Value Curve, you ask? Keep reading to learn more.

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Posted Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Rich Bowlen

How to Assemble a "Justice League" of Tech Teams

Having the right people on a technology implementation team is make or break for project success. Too often in human services, the right people aren’t involved from the beginning and by the time the project hits end users, it’s dead in the water.

In our experience, assembling a clearly defined team is the first step toward increasing user adoption when it comes to technology. While the number of people involved may differ depending on the size of your agency and the scope of the project, the general makeup should be the same.

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