Customer Story

How Electronic Case Files Help Caseworkers Put Families First

A CASE STUDY: Mesa County Department of Human Services

Summary

Since implementing Traverse®—cloud-based software that manages electronic case files—child welfare caseworkers at Mesa County Department of Human Services (DHS) can effectively telework and more efficiently work with families to reduce trauma and achieve permanency.

“During the pandemic a permanency worker told me ‘I don’t know what I would do right now working from home without Traverse.’”

HANNAH WEBSTER

Child Welfare Manager
Mesa County Department of Human Services

Challenges

  • Caseworkers needed a way to mine data and surface case history
  • Caseworkers strived to better balance their time to improve outcomes
  • Existing electronic filing systems can’t keep up with complex families or cases
  • Previous system lacked mobile access to case files and forms
  • COVID-19 forced staff to transition to telework in less than 24 hours

Solution

Mesa County DHS partnered with Northwoods to start using Traverse in January 2020. The systematic change was possible thanks to the hard work of Tracey Garchar, Director of Department of Human Services, to implement the enterprise solution into the agency and pave the way for other counties in Colorado.

Integrated with the state case management system Trails, the cloud-based software helps caseworkers easily and quickly collect and retrieve case information, while accessing electronic case files from anywhere—the agency, their homes, in court, or clients’ homes. They can search by keyword, person, or topic to find documents, photos, or people related to the case in minutes rather than hours. They can also complete digital forms with clients to complete releases of information and refer them to services faster.

Results

  • Easily collect and view documents, forms, and case history
  • Leverage a data connection to Trails to facilitate digital forms completed with families for faster referrals
  • Holistic view of cases and data mining to make safety and permanency decisions
  • Provide timely services and identify natural supports for at-risk families
  • Enable telework for 100% remote staff during pandemic

Trusted Technology Partner During COVID-19.

Mesa County DHS leadership had no way of knowing the pandemic was coming when they first decided to bring in Traverse in 2018. Fortunately, when choosing a technology vendor, leadership prioritized finding a trusted partner with expertise in not only building quality software, but an understanding of child welfare and long-term commitment to customers.

Here’s a brief overview of how that decision has paid off.

On March 16, 2020, Mesa County DHS staff were fully operational in their physical office. Less than 24 hours later, all 100 caseworkers were fully remote because of COVID-19 shutdowns. Thanks to Traverse, frontline caseworkers had essential technology and ongoing support from Northwoods to telework without jeopardizing services to families.

“What we’ve seen with the pandemic is we were able to effectively move our workforce out of the building, into their homes, and ultimately didn’t miss a beat,” said Kellerby.

Technology for Telework.

A key benefit of Traverse during the pandemic, or any crisis that displaces caseworkers, was having electronic case files available to anyone in the agency, regardless of location.

“I don’t think we would have been very effective without Traverse. We can keep our case files uploaded and available to other individuals almost instantaneously. When one of us isn’t available, someone can step in and make real-time decisions that impact the family and help us achieve permanency faster,” said Chase Sims-Ekrem, Social Caseworker II.

Digital forms that caseworkers can complete without leaving home have been essential throughout the agency.

Consistent Forms.

Also, the agency can make sure forms are consistent and up to date. For example, soon after the initial shutdowns, Mesa County DHS changed drug screening companies, which required switching authorization forms. Kellerby said Northwoods created the new form and it was added to the system within 24 hours. Caseworkers could immediately access the updated form in Traverse and any concerns about substance abuse could be dealt with quickly.

Complete Case History.

Beyond supporting telework, Traverse also provides a more complete picture of a family’s past to safeguard their future. Access to this history, both the strengths and areas of concern, helps caseworkers find natural supports and mitigate risk in the home, which reduces the need for out-of-home placement.

In line with the Family First Prevention Services Act, Mesa County DHS strives to use evidence-based prevention and intervention services to support well-being and safety for families. That also helps the agency better manage finances, resources, and workloads.

“We’re really trying to work with families at the lowest level of intervention possible. I think Traverse having the historical information and all the family’s history a lot more accessible helps make more informed decisions for the safety of the children,” said Webster.

The result is improved balance for workers, who are repurposing time to connect with families and take care of themselves while doing a stressful job during a stressful time.

”When some of our administrative work can be done right there with families, there’s more conversations that can be had, there’s more brainstorming in regard to solutions with families, and that’s where our caseworkers want to be,” said Kellerby.

Resources

Customer Story

Customer Story

Cultivating Meaningful Connections to Support Permanency

View Story

Infographic

Infographic

Finding Time to Focus on Families: How Traverse Helps in Child Welfare

View Infographic

Resource Page

Resource Page

Managing Remote Teams in Child Welfare

View Resources

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