Advice on Family First from HSITAG Members

Members of the Human Services Information Technology Advisory Group (HSITAG) offer advice to agencies in terms of getting their technology right in response to recent changes to the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).

Last year, the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) became law, introducing the biggest changes to how child welfare is financed since the establishment of Title IV-E entitlements in the

We have asked members of the Human Services Information Technology Advisory Group (HSITAG) what advice they might give to agencies in terms of getting their technology right in response to those recent changes.

Nicole Tecco Reece of Casebook PBC believes the most critical challenge to solve in implementing FFPSA both programmatically and technically is to strengthen the accuracy, timeliness and usability of provider data:

“FFPSA is a great acknowledgment of years of work by the Annie E Casey Foundation, Casey Family Programs and many others, proving that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In our experience, states most need a secure software solution to manage providers and gain insights into their performance.  This will enable them to identify communities that are under-served and target recruitment.  Accessible, easy to use systems will provide a data foundation to automate matching of the most effective preventative care based upon family needs, geography and provider outcomes.  Extending portal access to providers will speed up application time and create a real-time communication channel for caseworkers, provider teams, parents and other stakeholders.”

Teresa Lewis of Accenture highlights the act as a shift from reactive to proactive care, highlighting the need for integrated family data:

“The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) offers the framework to shift child welfare from a reactive to proactive system and underscores the important role of integrated family data. If we get it right, we’ll transition child welfare from a program that introduces interventions late in the game to one that acts quickly to avert disaster for vulnerable families. It is serendipitous that the FFPSA is coinciding with the new Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) specifications, as both policy changes will rely on data to drive insights.  As agencies plot a path forward for CCWIS, they should consider data-driven solutions that provide broad information about the families being served, visualize data that leaps off the page, and enables decision-makers to act quickly and with confidence to drive wildly different outcomes for children and families involved in child welfare programs.”

Ravi Jackson of GovWebworks points to a critical part of the changes as being related to effective data sharing, data analysis, and interoperability as part of the solution requiring collaboration from different stakeholders across technology and practice:

 “With an increased emphasis on children remaining in their home environment, States must weigh the risks of removal with their ability to identify and act on issues early, as well as carefully monitor the progress of related family services and programs. In short, they must become more proactive rather than reactive. This requires the disparate elements within the child welfare system - including public safety, healthcare, nonprofits and treatment providers - to effectively share data through integrated systems, and to use effective data analysis to identify potential risks before they become real problems."

Karen Rewalt of IBM Watson Health highlights that for agencies to be truly proactive, it is critical to unlock case data to understand interventions that lead to successful outcomes:

“Under the FFPSA, agencies must proactively work to keep families together.

"To do this, agencies need a case management solution that is built on a health and human services (HHS) data model that supports proactive, individualized interventions. Solutions must support relationship management between agencies, a thorough understanding of family relationships, and service providers. The key to success will be to work with vendors with a deep understanding of child welfare and how child welfare agencies work. Solutions built on HHS data models will allow agencies to unlock case data to know which services deliver the most impact and the best outcomes for clients.”

Denise Winkler of Microsoft highlights the need for predictive analytics and artificial intelligence:

"The FFPA provides real substantive funding for child abuse prevention. It aims to prevent children from entering foster care by enabling agencies to provide mental health services, substance abuse treatment and in-home parenting skills. It also incentivizes states to reduce congregate care.  As states are planning enhancements or replacements of their current child welfare systems—enabling predictive analytics and artificial intelligence will be a critical factor in accurately identifying children who are at risk of placement and supporting recruitment for the additional foster families needed as the dependence on congregate care is reduced.  

Meanwhile, Katie Knutson of Public Consulting Group is highlighting ease of use and efficient documentation as critical components of a new system:

“With FFPSA looming large, CCWIS offers solutions to support critical case management decisions and data collection requirements by: 

  • Identifying youth placed in Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) and alerting caseworkers to assessment and court review deadlines.
  • Documenting eligibility for Title IV-E funding for pregnant/parenting youth and candidates for foster care.
  • Capturing federally required prevention plan components.
  • Determining and documenting evidence-based prevention services.

“One of the best support we can provide field workers in completing the difficult work they do is an information system that is easy to use, allows for efficient documentation, and supports federal claims to keep dollars flowing into the state.”

To recap, key components of a successful FFPSA effort are:

  • Data, data, data: Without reliable data (in case management, provider management, financial management, etc…), efforts will fail
  • Accuracy and timeliness: Avoid duplication and ensure that your data is clean and up to date to drive actionable insights
  • Usability is key: Documentation and ease of use in supporting federal claims will support securing appropriate funding levels
  • Be proactive: Leveraging data for proactive intervention will be essential to successful implementations

As agencies grapple with the challenges of implementing FFPSA, HSITAG members are a great group to stay in touch with as members talk with stakeholders to identify the best support technology can provide to such implementations.  

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