• July/August 2009
  • Vol. 10, No. 6

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Promoting the Use of Data in a System of Care

The Jefferson County, Colorado, Systems of Care (SOC) initiative has helped the county's Division of Children, Youth, and Families focus on data use and accountability in child welfare with the development of the Child Welfare Application Timesaver (CAT) system. Funded by the Children's Bureau's Improving Child Welfare Outcomes Through Systems of Care demonstration project, the county's SOC initiative has aided in reshaping agency practice. The CAT system promotes the importance of data to caseworkers by enabling them to use their time more efficiently, avoid duplication of efforts, and increase timely services for families.

The system is designed to automate the completion and approval routing of county-specific documents, forms, and referrals using case management, client, and provider information extracted from the data tables of the Colorado Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). Tara Czyzewski, Systems and Design Specialist at the Jefferson County Department of Human Services, explains that the department wanted to increase data use without overloading the workers. They had to convince workers that, "Yes, it will mean an increased workload for data entry [into SACWIS], but it doesn’t have to increase workload overall," Ms. Czyzewski recalls.

Before the CAT system, which was implemented divisionwide by August 2006, there was much duplication of efforts, including completing forms and referrals by hand, entering the same information on multiple forms, and frequently completing the same form multiple times throughout the life of a case. All referrals were forwarded on paper for approval, and they often sat on desks or got lost in the shuffle, delaying services for families. Only later were the data entered into SACWIS in order to abide by State requirements.

While there were clear incentives to integrating data collection, workers still needed some way to be rewarded for entering their data into SACWIS first. Otherwise, this was seen as just an additional step in an already lengthy process. The solution was the CAT system, which:

  • Completes automated forms using SACWIS data
  • Provides automated electronic workflow (routing and approval)
  • Performs electronic scheduling
  • Sends email notifications and reminders
  • Monitors SACWIS data errors and compliance

One of the keys to the successful development of the CAT system was finding a programmer who understands what the child welfare practice is about and can easily see the big picture. According to Ms. Czyzewski, Jefferson County's programmer, Graig Crawford, "was able to ask some very valuable questions that helped us articulate what we really needed."

The positive outcomes of the CAT system have been numerous. Not only are services to families improved, as referrals are routed more efficiently through the system, but caseworkers now have a better understanding of the benefits of data and are more involved in the process. Ms. Czyzewski explains that, previously, reports and outcomes were looked at only by management, and workers did not see the value or understand the results. "They are now learning more about the SACWIS system . . . they are more involved with providing input on how to make improvements. From management on down, they are all talking about and interested in outcomes."

For more information, please contact Tara Czyzewski at tczyzews@co.jefferson.co.us.

Many thanks to Tara Czyzewski, Systems and Design Specialist at Jefferson County Department of Human Services, who provided information for this article.

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