December/January 2024Vol. 24, No. 10Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System News
Written by Children's Bureau Division of State Systems staff
The Children’s Bureau’s Division of State Systems (DSS) collaborates with agencies to review Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems (CCWIS). DSS prioritizes technical assistance and guidance to help agencies prevent or improve compliance issues negatively affecting child welfare outcomes and program administration. In this article, DSS is pleased to share a few common challenges and suggested mitigation strategies, as well as a list of upcoming webinars. For more examples and technical assistance, please contact your assigned federal analyst.
Change Management and User Adoption
Challenge: While a new CCWIS has the potential to support improved practice, introduce automation, and improve effectiveness and efficiency, even the best system requires an agency to spend significant time and resources on organizational change management (OCM).
- Many people are inherently resistant to change, which can result in a reluctance to learn or use the CCWIS. Project teams often underestimate how strong the resistance may be and fail to have mitigation strategies in place.
- Inadequate training, or training delivered by instructors (or vendors) unfamiliar with child welfare practice, frustrates end users and leads to poor adoption of the new system.
- Agency leadership must be actively involved in the project, especially in identifying project goals and communicating the value and importance to end users and partners. However, their involvement is often inadequate.
- Agencies should invest time and money to support a comprehensive OCM strategy.
- The Mapping Change and Implementation to CCWIS Projects toolkit outlines key factors to consider during all stages of your modernization effort, from planning to implementation to operations.
- Use CCWIS self-assessment tools at all stages of planning and development.
- There should be clear and frequent communication throughout the project lifecycle, supported by agency leadership. Agency leaders should be engaged in the project to ensure end users understand the reasons for the new system and any potential benefits provided by the CCWIS. As we’ve noted in several of our communications, CCWIS projects should be treated as a child welfare effort, not an information technology project.
- Training programs should be led by instructors familiar with child welfare practice.
- Governance should include caseworkers, supervisors, and those with lived experience.
- There should be comprehensive user acceptance testing from actual system users.
- There should be "champions" in local, county, and regional offices.
Challenge: Most legacy systems contain critical child welfare data that must be available and accessible to a CCWIS to ensure the continuity and consistency of care for children. Transferring large volumes of structured and unstructured data is a complicated process that is fraught with risk. Agencies frequently underestimate the planning needed and costs involved in migrating data from their legacy systems.
- Technical glitches, poor planning, or human error can lead to data loss or corruption.
- Downtime for the legacy system during the migration process may result in disruption to child welfare services.
- Insufficient data mapping or integration errors will lead to poor data quality.
- Agencies can get locked into a particular cloud vendor, leading to limited flexibility, potential dependency, and unexpected expenses.
- Spend more time on planning, preparation, data cleaning, and data mapping than you anticipate. This will help avoid data migration issues that could result in extended maintenance and operations of the legacy system.
- Involve end users and test, test, test!
- Create a universal data dictionary and ensure data are mapped to a standard across the whole system.
Challenge: CCWIS projects are costing more and taking longer than most agencies expect. Scope creep due to poorly defined requirements leads to increased costs. Licensing and cloud storage fees regularly increase, and sometimes more than planned.
- There is a lack of product knowledge on the agency team to hold vendors accountable.
- A lack of upfront planning results in future change requests.
- There is an inadequate allocation of resources to manage or deliver the project.
- Inaccurate budget predictions lead to budget shortfalls in the later stages of a project.
- Define the project scope in contracts using specific deliverables, goals, and timelines.
- Ensure end users understand what is and what is not included in the project. Set realistic expectations and maintain ongoing and transparent communication, especially when potential changes will affect the scope, budget, or time.
- Prioritize project requirements and features that are essential versus optional.
- Perform regular risk analysis. While DSS does not require independent verification and validation on every project, it is strongly encouraged.
- Track changes against a baseline, including the impact on the scope, schedule, and budget.
- Iterative or incremental development practices (such as Agile or prototyping) can support flexibility to changing requirements and prevent rework.
"CCWIS New Year – Open Discussion"
January 31, 2024
2:00–3:00 p.m. ET
This webinar, hosted by Tresa Young, director of the Division of State Systems, will summarize technical assistance and review activities over the year, trends in CCWIS implementation, and plans moving forward. This state- and tribe-only webinar will limit registration to attendees with a state or tribal email address. If you have any topics or questions you would like to hear addressed in this webinar, please send them to CCWIS.Questions@acf.hhs.gov by January 19, 2024. Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask questions during the webinar conversation. The registration link will be sent closer to the date of the webinar.