The 9th Annual National Child Welfare IT Managers' Meeting, sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Children's Bureau (CB), was held May 17-20, 2010, in Arlington, VA. One of the major takeaways from the conference was that of thriving innovation despite tough economic times. Although funding for programs is limited, child welfare cannot afford to roll over. Hard times mean a higher demand for services, which is a responsibility states have to shoulder.
Integration (and the very idea of integration) plays a key role in modernizing state benefit delivery systems. States are realizing that siloed service systems (child support, child welfare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), etc) are inefficient and antiquated. Families who qualify for one service are usually eligible for several other programs, but only a small number of states have cross-agency eligibility systems. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) is no stranger to this concept; it is currently engaged in the largest and most complex initiative in its history, the MOSAIC project. MOSAIC will break down the walls between the state's child support system (OSIS), family support system, and child welfare information system (SACWIS).
Maryland's Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services has already centralized administrative functions and is moving towards a single client record supported by an interoperable database. The department's quality reports not only grade work done on a single case file, but on how well the collective agencies worked together to deliver benefits to the family in need.
Not all modernization requires extensive funding, which is good, since none of the states seem to have much anyway. New Mexico is currently working to remove duplicate persons in its SACWIS system. The project may seem tedious, but it will result in greater caseworker efficiency and accuracy when dealing with families. With an increase in demand and a larger number of conversations with end users, states can examine their customer support models and see if they are as effective as they need to be. Although there are projections on when the recession may end, some states have adopted the idea that program cuts may become part of the norm from here on out. Vendors should not think that states have lost hope just because projects are not moving forward due to budget cuts. There continues to be a buzz of activity and planning around human services system integration and collaboration. All states need is the money to make those plans a reality.
To read more about the IT Managers' Meeting, please see GovWin's Analyst Recap.