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New child welfare information system in D.C. could be portal to more mobility for employees

A shift to a new type of child welfare information system in the District of Columbia could bring with it new mobility capabilities to district employees, the agency’s CIO says.

Jake Williams
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Jake Williams Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jake Williams is currently the Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives for StateScoop, based in Washington, D.C., where h...

The future of a child welfare information system in the District of Columbia remains uncertain as the federal government is encouraging movement to new technology.

After more than two decades on a legacy system, dubbed a Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System, or SACWIS, Washington, D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is faced with a choice to modernize — backed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services' Children's Bureau — or to stay on the current system.

In June 2016, the Children’s Bureau called for state child service agencies to migrate their systems to a new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System, or CCWIS. It was not a mandate, but the bureau encouraged states to make the move and enticed them with more favorable allocation of funds toward those systems as opposed to their legacy predecessors, according to the final rule from the bureau.

For agencies like D.C.’s CFSA, a child welfare information system coordinates everything from individual case data for the children and families it serves to how the agency assigns employees to perform visits and followups with clients.

That modernization decision sets up Washington, D.C.’s Child and Family Services agency CIO David Elges for a decision that could help the agency move away from legacy technology and toward more mobility for its employees.

“We have a very mobile workforce,” Elges says in a video interview with StateScoop from late August. “The opportunity also is with this new system to really fold in that mobile strategy — to really have it not be separate from the primary system.”

The move to CCWIS, Elges says, could help the D.C. agency reach people more effectively.

“In the city, 90 percent of adults have phones,” Elges says. “Of that, 60 percent of them have smartphones. That smartphone may be the only things that they have to reach out, so you really have to design with that mobile strategy in mind. That’s the way they’re going to be interacting with you.”

The potential modernization, as well as increased focus on unifying and amplifying mobility efforts, all fit into Elges’ general efforts of changing the culture of how CFSA operates. Elges, who has served in government for about a year, says that his experience in the private sector has brought him and the agency to this point.

“One of my favorite authors, Peter Drucker, [says] culture eats strategy for breakfast,” Elges says. “Really looking at what is the culture of the agency, and really when you’re looking to move that initiative, whether its modernization or innovation or whatnot, you really need to have the culture that supports that.”

And for Elges, that culture is one that emphasizes customer experience and cost awareness.

“A lot of us in district government, as I’m sure in the federal government, are looking to drive that customer experience and really look at the taxpayers, and the people we support, as customers,” Elges says. “How we reach out to them, and really create that experience that brings them in to understand that really at the end of the day, we’re good stewards of the taxpayers dollars.”

This video interview was brought to you by CA Technologies.

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