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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.

Posted Thursday, October 31, 2019 by Lauren Hirka

Don't Get Spooked by Artificial Intelligence for Child Welfare

Can artificial intelligence (AI) really help my caseworkers? Or is it all just a bunch of hocus pocus?

This is one of the most common questions we hear when introducing child welfare agencies to the concept of case discovery, which leverages AI. (Okay, maybe not the hocus pocus part … but come on, it’s Halloween!)

We interact with AI almost daily—think Siri, Alexa, or even your Roomba. It continues to gain traction in government and is seen as the emerging technology with the most potential by state chief information officers. Yet, the concept still seems scary in the context of child welfare.

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Posted Wednesday, October 23, 2019 by Team Northwoods

9 Tips for Financing Human Services Technology Projects

Editor's note: this post was originally published on August 15, 2017. We recently refreshed the list to give you twice the amount of helpful tips! 

Human services agencies face several hurdles when it comes to investing in technology.

Yet, even when resources are limited, it’s not impossible to come up with the money to purchase and maintain innovative technology solutions. (Plus, the short-term cost won’t seem so bad once you realize the long-term value of your investment!)

All it takes is a little upfront planning and creative thinking.

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Posted Monday, October 14, 2019 by Lauren Hirka

Meeting Users Where They Are: Designing Technology for Enhanced Engagement

At Northwoods, we are focused on starting with why. I believe starting with why provides a constant reminder for the team of the collective goal we are all working toward, which is ultimately to improve outcomes for children and families by empowering the practice.

To do this, we need to meet the user where they are—both physically, and in terms of practice.

As one of APHSA’s 2019 Emerging Leaders, I was invited to present a poster at the annual ISM conference showcasing a solution that Northwoods has implemented.

I chose to present on this topic, Meeting Users Where They Are, because it influences every solution and service we offer.

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Posted Wednesday, October 2, 2019 by Team Northwoods

How Streamlined is Your Human Services Lobby?

Editor's note: this post was published a few months before agencies across the country were forced to close their lobbies and limit interaction in response to COVID-19. As agencies are able to begin reopening, it's even more important to have the right tools in place to improve lobby flow and serve clients quickly. Please don't hesitate to reach out to us if you want to discuss how Northwoods can help you prioritize safety and comply with public health emergency measures, while keeping up with increasing service demands.

Imagine you’re a working parent balancing three minimum wage jobs to provide stability for your family but find yourself needing to apply for temporary assistance to get by.

You don’t have much time between shifts, so you drive to your local agency to start the application process over your 45-minute lunch break … only to get stuck in line as soon as you enter the lobby. You’re not sure where to go or what to do. Do you stay and risk getting back to work late? Do you come back tomorrow and hope you’ll get served faster?

To the vulnerable citizens who need your help, a line in your lobby may feel like an immediate disservice.

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Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2019 by Team Northwoods

Family First Prevention Services Act: Anticipating and Navigating the Road Ahead

We know many states and agencies still have lingering questions and concerns surrounding the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), so we’ve rounded up several recent articles and resources to help you assess your options, plan for the best way to move forward, and navigate the impending change.

Editor’s note: we originally published this post on June 11, 2019. Since FFPSA has now officially gone into effect (despite most states delaying implementation), we’re continuously updating it to include new resources.

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Posted Wednesday, September 4, 2019 by Team Northwoods

The Northwoods Guide to IT Solutions Management (ISM) 2019

APHSA’s IT Solutions Management (ISM) for Human Services Conference is hands down one of our favorite conferences of the year. It’s a great opportunity to hear from experts at all levels of government about the most important IT topics and innovations impacting human services.

That said, we know ISM can also be overwhelming—especially if you’ve never been before.

We asked our team to share their advice to help you make the most of the 2019 conference, including tips for first-time attendees, sessions we suggest adding to your agenda, and of course, all the ways you can connect with Northwoods. We look forward to seeing you in Milwaukee!

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Posted Wednesday, August 28, 2019 by Greg Tipping

Total Integration of Human Services: Does Child Support Hold the Key?

“Child support is for the child. To do right by the child, sometimes you have to make sure the parents are okay.”

This quote was shared during a session on the future of human services program delivery at last week’s National Child Support Enforcement Association (NCSEA) Leadership Symposium. It resonates with me because it underscores how all areas of human services are connected. Sure, each program may have its own policies and processes, but at the end of the day they’re ultimately serving the same people, and we need to start treating them that way.

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Posted Tuesday, August 6, 2019 by Greg Tipping

You Can't Automate Compassion

As a former job and family services worker in Ohio, it is safe to say I have a lot of stories. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, not all of them are good ones. It’s a hard job and you often do not get to see the result of your work. However, there is one story that has stuck with me through the years.

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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 Friday, July 12, 2019 by Team Northwoods

HSITAG: Bringing Positive Change to Health and Human Services

“Partnership is how we’re going to elevate Ohio to the next level.” – Ervan Rodgers, Chief Information Officer and Assistant Director, State of Ohio

In June, Columbus had the honor of hosting one of the monthly Human Services Information Technology Advisory Group (HSITAG) Public Sector Council Meetings at the iconic Ohio Statehouse.

State CIO Ervan Rodgers, along with Ohio Job and Family Service Directors’ Association (OJFSDA) Executive Director Joel Potts and RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson, talked about some of the most significant IT initiatives underway in Ohio to modernize how our government delivers and coordinates services.

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