Child welfare agencies have had to pivot multiple times over the past year to support and sustain a remote workforce, while enabling people to connect and share important information in new and different ways.
Now that working from anywhere has become the norm, agencies must have the right technology in place to mobilize case and client information so that workers can both make sense of it and use it to help others.
As you think about what mobile tools can have the greatest long-term impact on critical child welfare work, keep the following “must haves” in mind:
1. Optimized to work when and how caseworkers do.
Think about the last time you couldn’t connect to WiFi to check your email or take a call because cell service in the area was unreliable. Frustrating, right? Now, imagine that same frustration in an intense situation where a child’s safety is at risk or a decision must be made quickly.
Mobile solutions should be optimized for when caseworkers are in the field engaging with families and work in disconnected mode. Further, the technology should be nonintrusive and designed to display and retrieve information in a way that matches a caseworker’s natural conversation style.
2. Complete forms from anywhere.
Caseworkers need the ability to immediately make referrals for services when meeting with a family. When forms can be completed with a family, signed electronically, and submitted from an electronic device during a visit, families get services faster and reach their goals in a timelier manner.
Beyond allowing caseworkers to access all their forms, a mobile solution should also autosave progress so they can start a form in the office or in the field and complete it when it makes the most sense. (Related resource: A Fresh Approach to Electronic Forms in Human Services)
3. Make information easy to capture.
Caseworkers need the ability to quickly capture photos, documents, audio, and video during home visits.
Being able to not only take a photo of the living conditions or scan in a school report using the camera on your tablet or iPhone, but also categorizing it and adding notes in the electronic filing structure so other workers or supervisors can easily retrieve the information after it has been captured is critical.
4. Mobile-first, not just mobile-friendly.
There’s a big difference between technology that’s purpose-built for mobile (mobile-first) and technology that works on a mobile device (mobile-friendly). Think about using the Amazon app versus viewing the website on your phone. The app is much easier to navigate because it was built solely for use on a mobile device.
Just because something is accessible on mobile doesn’t mean it’s easy to use—for example, you may be able to open your state system on your mobile device, but can you quickly and easily add new information as you collect it in the field or view case information?
Mobile-first tools are designed to give you exactly what you need when you need it—no more, no less.
5. Augments the complete solution.
A mobile tool on its own is helpful, but it can have a much larger impact when integrated with a full tech stack.
As detailed in our child welfare market report with GovLoop and Amazon Web Services (AWS), software that truly empowers better child welfare practice should have both web and mobile components; artificial intelligence (AI) elements to automatically analyze case content to quickly understand critical information from the past and present; and insight into specific, detailed information related to a particular person, case or topic.
Now that you’ve learned the five must haves, here are some resources to help you prepare to evaluate mobile solutions for child welfare:
- Investing in Essential Technology and Remote Connection for Child Welfare: Our market report dives deeper into the challenges child welfare caseworkers face today and how both mobile and web-based technology can transform the field.
- Change Management 101: Empowering Human Services Agencies to Embrace Change: When you're ready to adopt a new tool, our guide has advice to help your agency manage the change in a way that leads to lasting and measurable success.
- Using Traverse for High-Value Work with Families: The five must haves outlined above have influenced how our product Traverse® helps in child welfare since its inception. This infographic highlights some ways Traverse empowers mobile social workers, such as digitally handing off forms for immediate signatures or collecting content anywhere, anytime, and from any device.
- What's the Value of Traverse in Child Welfare?: Our eBook provides an overview of the time savings, benefits, and ROI we've heard from customers, including frontline workers, supervisors, directors, and commissioners.
- Northwoods Mobilizes Content for Caseworkers Using AWS-Based Application: Our case study with AWS explores how 180 workers at Erie County Office of Children and Youth use their mobile devices to access files easily; collect new data such as photos, forms, and electronic signatures; and refer families for necessary services right away.
Lauren Hirka, product manager, sets the long-term vision and strategy for Traverse, our content collection and case discovery solution, including the product roadmap, messaging, and communication with internal and external stakeholders. Lauren has spent hundreds of hours with child welfare professionals to research and develop Traverse from its inception.
This list of the 5 must-haves for mobile technology in CPS will help agencies find a social services software solution that enhances mobile social workers’ daily work with families and complements their work in SACWIS.