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November 2006Vol. 7, No. 8Technologies Enhance Caseworker Capabilities

Tablet PCs and Mobile Worker PDAs are among the new technologies that caseworkers around the country are taking into the field. In many cases, these devices are propelling workers into the 21st century by replacing paper notes with digitized documentation and by streamlining decision-making through the use of sophisticated resources such as digital mapping.

In Texas, the Department of Family and Protective Services is distributing 3,000 Tablet PCs to CPS workers and Residential Child Care Licensing staff. These lightweight, portable PCs have capabilities that extend far beyond those of typical laptops. Using the Tablet PC in the field, a worker can take notes on the screen with a digital pen, access resources through wireless Internet, use the mapping software to locate clients, send and receive email, find assignments and reports, and access the CPS case management system. The Tablet PC also includes a computerized reporting system for abuse and neglect and allows workers to take pictures with a digital camera and download and send those photos through email.

Frontline workers and ongoing case managers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, began to take Tablet PCs into the field in August of this year. Workers can download case information from their Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) into the Tablet PC, input new data into the PC while in the field, and then upload the new information into the primary SACWIS when they return to their office.

This streamlined approach to documentation came about in response to a workforce issue, according to Martha Johnson, Section Chief for Policy Development and Quality Improvement at the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The jurisdiction was experiencing significant turnover in case managers, and many who left cited the demands of documentation and the lack of useful technology as a reason for their resignation. The Tablet PCs were brought in to meet that need.

There are many reasons to expect that child welfare will continue to embrace new technology. Some supervisors have noted that newer workers just entering the field of child welfare are particularly savvy with regard to new technology and expect to use sophisticated technology in their work. In addition, funding sources have increased requirements for documentation and evaluation data, and many newer technological devices are well-suited for this type of data collection.

To read more about the Texas Tablet PC rollout, go the State website:

To find out more about the Wisonsin Tablet PC experience, contact Martha Johnson at:

Tell us! Does your State or jurisdiction have an innovative technology that you are piloting? We'll collect ideas for a future technology update. Drop us a line: