Posted Tuesday, March 26, 2024 by Lauren Hirka

5 Must-Haves for Mobile Technology in Child Welfare

Child welfare agencies are always adapting. As the landscape continuously shifts, so do the demands on child welfare workers, who must be equipped with the right tools to respond quickly and effectively, no matter where they are.

Mobile technology enables workers to stay connected, access and share important information on the go, and streamline their work. In turn, workers can focus on fostering relationships, providing holistic support, and helping families make positive change to achieve their goals.

To make the greatest impact, technology must be designed with child welfare workers in mind. As you think about what mobile tools can truly enhance critical child welfare work, keep the following “must haves” in mind:

1. Optimized to work when, where, and how caseworkers do.

Think about the last time you couldn’t connect to Wi-Fi 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 to keep up with caseworkers on the move and while they’re engaging with families. This means mobile tools should still work regardless of connectivity and allow workers to access their data, even offline. Additionally, anyone who uses the app should have a similar experience, regardless of their mobile device or operating system.

Ideally, mobile and web apps will provide a similar user experience too. Across the board, the technology should be nonintrusive and designed to display and retrieve information in a way that matches a caseworker’s natural conversation style.

Here, it’s also important to distinguish between technology that’s mobile-first and mobile-friendly. Mobile-first tools are purpose-built for mobile devices and designed to give you exactly what you need when you need it—no more, no less. Mobile-friendly tools are accessible on a mobile device, but not designed for one, meaning they aren’t quite as easy to use. Think about using the Amazon app versus viewing the website on your phone. The app is much easier to navigate because it was designed for that exact purpose. Another example is your SACWIS/CCWIS system. You may be able to open the system on your mobile device, but can you easily take photos, add information, or find what you need?

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

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, signed, and submitted from a mobile device during a visit, families get services faster and reach their goals in a timelier manner.

Caseworkers should be able to autosave progress so they can start a form on one device and complete it on another or when it makes the most sense—for example, starting a form in the office to finish on their mobile device with a family later.

They should also be able to add notes and route forms internally when they’re in progress so another worker or supervisor can easily finish them as needed.

Related resource: A Fresh Approach to Electronic Forms in Human Services

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

3. Make information easy to capture.

In addition to completing forms, caseworkers need the ability to quickly capture or upload photos, documents, audio, and video during home visits. The process of capturing this content, giving it context, and connecting it to a case or person should be easy and intuitive. Mobile tools should allow workers to:

  • Quickly collect one or multiple photos of people or living conditions.
  • Capture paper documents with the phone’s camera, which automatically finds and crops the edges and allows you to edit the image to make it easier to view once added to the case file.
  • Easily manage the content type, add captions or notes, and manage connections to make photos easier to retrieve later.
  • Save documents, photos, and other content as in-progress, so you can focus on engaging clients without disruption and then finish them later.
  • Automatically or manually route completed content items for further action (for example, send a plan to your supervisor to sign off on).

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.

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

4. Make information easy to find and share.

Mobile tools should not only make information easier to capture on the fly, but also help workers access and share that information after it’s been collected. A few examples:

  • Workers should be able to easily search for cases and click through the details from their mobile device to find what they need.
  • Content items should be easy to share via your agency’s preferred mail app (e.g., Outlook) or any other apps on your device.
  • Once content and forms are complete, they should become text searchable. Workers can then search for information in their cases (think names or keywords) much like someone would use Google to search for a specific item on a restaurant menu.
  • Audio and video files uploaded from a mobile device should be automatically transcribed to make them easier to find and search as well.

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

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.

Software that truly empowers better child welfare practice should include both web and mobile components that complement each other. It should leverage artificial intelligence (AI) tools to automatically analyze case content that’s collected from any device and put critical information right at workers’ fingertips. And, it should help automate essential tasks and processes to both improve productivity and allow workers to focus on people work.

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

We recently released a new version of our Traverse mobile app with these five must haves in mind. Traverse Mobile 2 works with our Traverse web app to give workers the flexibility to interact with their cases while on the move. View these resources to learn more about the software:

Lauren Hirka, director of product management, works with partner agencies across the country to help them realize the impact of new products and functionality as changes roll out, plus understand their challenges to inform future features. Lauren has spent hundreds of hours with child welfare and human services professionals to research, develop, and expand Traverse since its inception. 

Divider in a blog about mobile technology for child welfare

New call-to-action