National Foster Care Month: 3 ways technology can strengthen the American foster care system

By Evelyn Ratnakumar

The three important aspects of the foster care system replete with challenges but hold the potential for disruption using innovative technology.

The foster care system in America, which currently serves about 430,000 children and youth each year, plays an important role in helping each state protect vulnerable children and providing at-risk families the support needed to provide a safe environment for their kids. It is a huge responsibility and requires committed people who can go the extra mile to ensure kids are safe and cared for. Here, we look at three important aspects of the foster care system replete with challenges but hold the potential for disruption using innovative technology.

Promoting family preservation and reunification

Social workers in child welfare are tasked with finding the best possible outcome for every child whose case they take on. This outcome could very well be ensuring a child remains in her family of origin. The Executive Order passed last year urged more states to concentrate on family preservation and reunification at the earliest. This would require concerted efforts by the state to fill in the gaps in child care by solving family problems that put a child at risk of abuse or neglect.

This does not mean case workers should keep children in an abusive home for the sake of family preservation.

A good case management platform enables a caseworker who is dealing with dozens of cases at a time to stay on top of every bit of information that matters in a child’s removal from her home. This means gathering the data needed for a complete investigation to take place, and that every piece of evidence—past history of parents and guardians, previous records of abuse, the family’s economic status, etc—can be used to build a case and arrive at the most optimal course of action.

In cases where neglect takes place due to a family’s inability to make ends meet and need services that could support child rearing, states must intervene and provide them with assistance to get back on their feet. This requires a platform that helps citizens easily avail of after-school programs, day-care, and financial assistance.

Finding the best placement

As established earlier, foster care must not be the first option for child welfare case managers. Indeed, it must be the last resort. And when children do come under state care, it’s imperative that it is the best fit for the child’s unique needs. We spoke earlier about the importance of taking a child-centric approach to case management and placement.

Supporting foster parents is another side of the same coin. States need to invest in technology that helps them recruit the ideal providers, give them the training they need, and support them in a continuous manner. This includes a means to figuring out which group homes and foster parents are perpetuating the abuse and neglect that the State tried to prevent by removing the child from their origin home. Technology must fill in the gaps with data analysis where human or manual intervention can be patchy and error-prone.

Supporting caseworkers

What should probably be the biggest priority for state child welfare agencies is the support, development, and nurturing of caseworkers who serve in the foster care system. Historically, caseworkers have faced many challenges in their line of work, which dwarf the impact they make.

Their challenges are many:

Caseworker attrition in the Indiana Department of Child Services was solved in the training stage itself, when CIO Kevin Jones introduced virtual reality to take new recruits through possible case scenarios and expose them to the many challenging aspects of their job before they get out on the field.

It is an irony that caseworkers in child welfare often don’t get the time to spend with their own children. States must look at ways to make caseworkers’ lives easier by supporting them with technology that reduces manual intervention, minimizes errors, improves outcomes, and brings a sense of work-life balance to caseworkers.

How Cardinality helps

Through its Child Welfare solution, Cardinality’s mobile-friendly Health and Human Services platform has enabled states to support their caseworkers to put their best foot forward at work every day.

Further, Cardinaliy’s artificial intelligence technology, called Redbird AI, scores each provider based on multiple criteria such as monitoring plan, background checks, training of staff, etc and matches it against historical placement data, child characteristics, medical and health factors, geographic proximity, psychographic information to suggest the most suitable provider to the caseworker.

Laying emphasis on family preservation and kinship care, the AI helps in genome matching while the platform hosts the ability for the state to screen and train next of kin to take over at a time of crisis. Moreover, Cardinality’s machine learning-enabled continuous reviews of children in foster care keep alive the ongoing effort to find the best placement for a child.

Speak to us today to know more about how you can use technology to strengthen your State’s foster care system.