Research Library

Our Research Library includes white papers, presentations, fact sheets, news articles, and templates from human services industry experts to help agencies implement technology in human services.

We’ve also reviewed each resource to help you:

  • Discover human services software solutions that work for your agency
  • Support your case for funding with stakeholders
  • Implement technology for caseworkers by gaining internal support

Note from the reviewer: My goal has always been a simple one: do the most good for the most children. As the former director of Fairfield County Child and Adult Protective Services in Ohio, I am fully aware of the administrative and direct service challenges associated with serving a community. In my role at Northwoods, I have the opportunity to share this Research Library, helping agencies discover new ways to overcome those challenges. I’ll add a new resource every few weeks, so check back or sign up to receive email notifications directly in your inbox.

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Research Library

  Title Author Last Modified            
Successful recruitment and retention continues to be an area demanding significant resources from child welfare organizations. The difficulty in retaining staff goes beyond dealing with a revolving door, it has a devastating impact on the families and children relying on your agency for services. As I have met with numerous Protective Services Directors and administrative personnel over the past several months, nearly all have requested assistance in helping to put together their “business case” to help educate their board members, elected officials and community regarding the importance to invest in front line staff and supervisors. The accompanying article from the Journal of the National Center for youth Law provides a simplified top 11 list that can be very helpful to those having conversations with key stakeholders. One of the themes represented in this journal article is the importance to properly equip today’s social workers with the proper technology.
Predictive analytics promises to help child welfare agencies better understand which groups of children in their communities may have an increased chance of being in danger of abuse. However, there are several factors to consider. Child welfare caseworkers and supervisors regularly find themselves in situations as unique and distinctive as each member of the families they serve. Decisions are made daily about whether to initiate a case, file in court, remove a child from his or her home, or determine who is most connected to a child to help reduce trauma. In each of these instances, it’s important we develop tools that support and empower the social work professionals who find themselves on the frontlines constantly assessing information and trying to understand a child’s whole story to be able to make informed, confident decisions. The Chronicle of Social Change provides an honest look at predictive analytics in child welfare through examples like L.A.’s Child Protection Hotline and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Having followed work by Emily Putnam-Hornstein for the past several years, the reference to “predictive risk” in this article resonated with me more than anything else. At the end of the day, predictive analytics promises to be a tool that can help identify what situations or set of variables cause certain children and families to potentially be most at risk. However, regardless of how much we advance our work with data and technology, machines alone can’t answer the entire need. Child welfare social work requires education, training, and observation, and skills like empathy, listening, and benevolence. Every child and family is different. It is my hope that we as social workers can feel informed by analytics, but also apply our caring, critical thinking skills to the data to engage children and families in a meaningful way.
The deadline for states to opt in for the new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) is not until July of next year, but when you consider all the factors that will likely precede a state’s decision to move forward, the timeline becomes much shorter. This article from FosterTech explores how states and agencies are reacting to a potential conversion to CCWIS, including how many states seem to be gun-shy about initiating an expensive technology shift. Our take? If states and ultimately local agencies can move from a system that is built to simply collect data to one that can help manage it behind the scenes, social workers have more time to actually do social work. CCWIS offers an opportunity for child welfare advocates to drive best practices, not just react to them. In numerous conversations with county directors, supervisors, and caseworkers, many are unaware of how they can inform or influence decisions being made at the state level. In fact, many see CCWIS as just the next Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) with little change. It’s imperative that local practitioners feel informed and empowered to be involved in this next generation of systems aimed to help manage cases within child welfare. It’s time those experienced in serving on the frontlines – those who’ve carried caseloads or managed in a child welfare agency – take this opportunity to continue raising the bar to do what’s possible to deliver the highest quality of services to the most vulnerable.
Great article and definitely worth the quick read. This blog effectively sums up what I have heard numerous, incredible, dedicated and committed social workers across the country verbalize. One of the statements offered in this article echoes statements made throughout child welfare agencies all over, “Child protection social work in particular has become so bureaucratic and paper-laden that 80% of a practitioner’s time is spent form-filling rather than supporting service users.” The author goes on to point out how this process contributes to high caseloads and long hours, which results in rapid burnout. There are also a number of supporting pieces associated with this article that are worth a click.
"For those working in the field of protective services, days can be long and very stressful. As days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the cumulative weight of never-ending paperwork along with the emotional strain zaps the energy out of the most mission-driven social workers. As a result, retention within the field of protective services is always a hot topic and agencies are constantly searching for ways to keep quality staff. This article highlights the importance of investing in capabilities that frontline staff find valuable and how that can go a long way in encouraging them to remain as part of your team. Additionally, this piece provides an interesting perspective on retention for organizations that have an increasing number of staff working remotely or are much more mobile due to demands of being in the field more than in the office."
Whether your agency is deciding to take that first bold step towards becoming truly paperless or increasing the use of modern technology tools to promote quality services, it is important to also take the pulse of your community. This study out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio utilized surveys to obtain feedback and opinions of over 80 community organizations. Questions focused on thoughts surrounding the use of today’s technology to address the growing number of families in need while budgets continue to decline. In addition to these telling responses, also find interesting attitudes towards agency culture and workforce challenges in adapting to changes brought about by the introduction of technology.
This white paper from Northwoods explores why the typical classroom-style approach to training does not work in child or adult protective services, where social workers are in the field dealing with difficult situations everyday. It outlines Northwoods' unique and distinct Coach Model training that provides an agency the ability to position itself for continued success long after implementation. The Coach Model is specifically designed for protective services to reduce frustration and increase the likelihood that social workers will completely adopt new technology, so agencies can maximize their technology investment.
A GOVERNING magazine article highlighting results from an informal poll of 20 officials from 17 states conducted by Government Technology. This article is great to share with staff within your organization. GOVERNING points to agency employees' fear of altering work habits and processes that have been in place for decades as the application of technology assumes a larger role. Additionally, the author points out the pitfalls that occur when an agency attempts to force new technology to work like the “old way of doing things.”
When rolling out technology to social workers and caseworkers, Northwoods recommends using a coaching model. This allows technically savvy workers to serve as champions and team leaders. This sample survey from Northwoods will help agencies gauge individuals’ receptiveness and aptitude to learning new technology. Human services agencies can use results from the survey to implement an effective training program.
Workitect is a great resource to review when working on projects. In addition to providing additional sources of information, Workitect provides walkthrough guidance complete with examples that make it easy for new managers to use within their own teams. While this piece references Chapter 5 – Managing Change, the entire Workitect competencies series (http://www.workitect.com/pdf/ResourceGuide_DevCompetencies.pdf) merits review. This specific resource is helpful for leaders as they assemble their team to facilitate change, especially when identifying the skill sets necessary for quality managers who can effectively support their vision.