The last time child welfare agencies implemented new core systems, they had to follow very specific federal requirements. These requirements dictated how many data fields and which data fields every State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) had to include.

Twenty-five years later, the child welfare workforce is fed up with their SAWCISes. They’ve grown tired of clunky screens with blinking cursors. They’re weary of pressing F12 four times to access a simple piece of information.

Welcome to a new generation of child welfare tech

Fortunately, change is afoot as the federal government funds the new generation of child welfare technology: the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS).

This time, federal requirements are less specific and more strategic. For example, every CCWIS must be modular. Every system must support bidirectional data exchange. And every CCWIS must enable data analysis.

States have control over how they accomplish those objectives. That’s where the real opportunities — and challenges — come in.

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The difference between ‘good’ and ‘familiar’

Every new CCWIS will be designed by humans, and we humans are naturally drawn to the familiar. What’s familiar is comfortable. It’s true even when we dislike the status quo, even when we know we need something new and different.

For child welfare agencies, the shift to CCWIS holds great promise for change. But the process of breaking away from legacy approaches may feel anything but familiar and comfortable.

I am observing evidence of this as states plan for data conversion. This process presents one of the first big tests of a state’s commitment to transform.

Will you do the hard work of forging new and better ways of supporting families?

Or will you be so cautious that you get lulled back into legacy ways of working?

If you decide to convert ALL your old SACWIS data, you’re starting down a path of recreating your old SACWIS with a modern interface. All that old data will keep you tangled up in old ways of operating. It will also cause your CCWIS development costs to spiral.

Instead, I encourage states to dig in and assess the active case data that must be converted. Leave the rest behind. More specifically, move inactive data to a warehouse and provide read-only access.

How will you step into the future?

Early-phase decisions — including your strategy for data conversion — matter.

These choices will make or break your ability to deliver a system that is intuitive and easy to use. A system that serves up reliable information for caseworkers as they decide how to support families and kids. A system that can continue to evolve and improve over time.

We won’t drive transformative change if a CCWIS devolves into a SACWIS in disguise. Instead, let’s tackle bold, big-picture thinking that will result in better tech — and better results.

In addition to connecting with me via LinkedIn and Twitter, I invite you to read more about how Accenture is approaching CCWIS with our Accenture Case Insight Solution (ACIS).

More blogs by Molly

This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties. All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners. No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

Molly Tierney

Managing Director – Public Service, Child Welfare, North America

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