Uma Ahluwalia has been on the front lines of the human services mission, working with children and families as a caseworker. Now, as she leads Montgomery County's human services department, Ahluwalia finds that while technology—specifically human services analytics—cannot lift the load off the shoulders of many families, it can help to solve some of the ongoing industry challenges.
As a former case-carrying social worker, Ahluwalia explains that, “The rubber really hits the road right there, it’s where the clients are. You carry that stress home with you every day about have you done enough, is that person going to be hungry, is that child safe tonight, right, all of those things. And when you have had that experience, no matter how high you go and manage it, you never quite forget who’s the one that’s carrying the load.”
“We generate a lot of data,” says Ahluwalia. “But I don’t know that it’s structured that way, and I think we don’t have the capacity necessarily within our ranks to do the kind of analytics and to manage for the data in a way that shows improvements.”
When asked to grade the human services community on use of analytics, Ahluwalia gives it a C+. “I think we are getting better at it, but still have a pretty long road to travel.”
“We did a return on taxpayer investment, modeling project. And when we did that, one of the things we found, if there is a pregnant teenager and we’re doing wrap services around her appropriately, she’s the young woman, the young mom who becomes homeless at age 21 or 22, costing the system lots and lots of more money. If we didn’t do that, we would react in the moment to meet the needs of that teenager but not be futuristic about it. And if we were more strategic, we could save a lot of downstream costs, and I think that’s the kind of impact that analytics can have on our work.”