DHS News Newsletter June 2008
The first of many KIDS is live
Key Information and Demographics System (KIDS), the software application that will ultimately receive, process and retain demographic and service-related information about ALL the children and youth who receive services through DHS and their families, is beginning to move from the hands of the programmers and developers to the computers of the users.
The first version of the software – KIDS Release One -- brings processing information about children in the DHS system into the 21st century. Beginning with the DHS Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF), KIDS Release One streamlines the methods collecting and processing information gathered during the intake process, field screenings, ChildLine and GPS investigations, risk and safety assessments, safety plans and contacts.
KIDS Release One reduces the need for handwritten documents, replacing them with electronic files that not only record the entered data, but make it available for reporting purposes.
The DHS Office of Information Management (OIM) and CYF continue to work together diligently to ready KIDS Release One for its scheduled release on August 25, 2008.
CYF lends a hand with KIDS
For seven weeks beginning at the end of April, 10 CYF staff persons with a variety of job titles assisted KIDS developers by performing User Acceptance Testing (UAT) on Release One. Weekly, testers worked through 12 scenarios that were specifically designed to include the most common CYF intake and investigation business practices. Testers evaluated the ease and completeness of the data entry process, making sure that each step of the business practice that was formerly done by hand and in hard copy was now contained in the KIDS application. In addition, the UAT group tested forms and letters that can be generated from KIDS.
Four of the UAT testers shared their sentiments on KIDS during their June 2, 2008 UAT session. The four testers were Betsy Caroff, Caseworker Supervisor, CYF East Regional Office (ERO); Angela Filotei, CYF Caseworker, Adoption; Tracy Rohrdanz, CYF Family Services Caseworker (ERO); and Michael Gill, Social Worker Training Specialist, Lexington Training Office.
Said Angela Filotei, “[Some CYF staff] think it’s like PACWIS. But it isn’t. They need to know that it’s coming and it’s going to change the way we do our work in a positive way.”
PACWIS (PA Child Welfare Information System) was a state-mandated computerized information system from the late 1990s for which trainings took place throughout CYF, but the system never went live.
Reasons for rejoicing
Caroff was particularly pleased with two specific aspects of KIDS.
“The fact that KIDS keeps track of all the information about each interaction a CYF staff person has with anyone involved in a case is so important,” Caroff said. “Right now, without KIDS, just an attempted phone call results in two pages of documentation. Since KIDS allows you to enter the information about contacts more easily and keeps track of it for you, it will result in a much more accurate record of each case.”
Secondly, Caroff noted the advantage of having information that a caseworker enters into the system automatically used to complete the requisite forms.
“What’s really big is that [KIDS] fills the forms in for you based on the information you entered along the way,” Caroff said.
Rohrdanz was impressed with the UAT process itself, which sends each of the testers through each of the scenarios on a weekly basis.
“The application gets better every week,” Rohrdanz said. “There are fewer and fewer bugs [areas within the application that need to be fixed] each time we go through.”
Gill sees KIDS from a trainer’s perspective. “I think it’s a good thing,” Gill said, seeing KIDS from a trainer’s perspective. “It will take a varying amount of time for each staff person to master the new way of doing things, but when they do, they will see the benefits in using KIDS. I really like it. I think it’s good.”
Beyond the functionality benefits, Gill also added his prediction of how KIDS will be embraced by new employees.
“Because they won’t be faced with the challenge of relearning the business processes, and because KIDS is so user friendly, I think it will be very well-received by new hires,” Gill said.
Gill also noted that one of the modules of KIDS allows CYF staff to search through and register for all the offered CYF trainings from their computer.
“It will make signing up for any training as simple as a few clicks,” he said.
The UAT testers were not without their cautions, however, citing concerns regarding adjusting to reading from a screen instead of a piece of paper, needing to type instead of write information, and the general resistance to change.
Still, they saw the benefit of improving the efficiency of casework quickly outweighing any barriers. For instance, because the information is entered directly by the caseworker, there is no loss of accuracy or meaning between taking notes and recording them in the electronic case file.
Next, since the information is available for recall with the click of a mouse, there is no need to pour over lengthy and confusing paper files.
Third, because the information entered into the application is accessible only with electronic security clearances, confidential information is kept more secure.
And finally, since the information is held in a single electronic location and cannot be exposed to physical damage, there will be none lost due to such weaknesses as with paper documents.
If the experiences of the UAT testers are any indication, DHS staff who work with children and families are on the verge of receiving a powerful tool to assist them in doing their jobs even better.
Training sessions for KIDS Release One are scheduled to start on August 4th with multiple sessions offered to accommodate work schedules and vacations. Subsequent releases of KIDS, which will incorporate work done in the Fiscal office as well as Adoption/Foster Care, will be implemented over the next year or so.
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