Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Technology Behind Centralized Statewide Intake

In response to the need for more consistent practice in child welfare intake, some states are implementing centralized statewide child abuse and neglect intake systems. To more effectively handle the increased volume of calls received, the central intake center requires a technology-supported system to assist state and local staff in protecting abused and neglected children.
Texas Statewide Intake (SWI)
The state of Texas covers a substantial and diverse geographic region. With over 250 local child welfare offices statewide, Texas sought to better utilize their workforce and workspace in order to have a more efficient and effective intake system. When Texas began the process to create a statewide intake system, the main focus was to implement a system that would be consistent across a large and varied geographic area. In response to these needs, the State of Texas has created a system intended to be user-friendly, effective, and consistent. The intake operation requires a blend of child welfare practice and technology application.
In Texas, all reports of child abuse and neglect, as well as abuse and neglect of the elderly or disabled or within licensed child care settings, are received at a central call center located in Austin. Those reporting abuse or neglect call an 800 number and speak to a worker trained in intake regarding all areas of abuse, neglect and exploitation. Reports may also be made electronically through the state’s web site.
Texas Statewide Intake encompasses several components. The main elements, which will be discussed here, are call routing, call center workforce management, digital voice recording, and internet reports of abuse and neglect.
Call Routing
Centralization implementation began in September 1996 with the delivery of the Child and Adult Protective System (CAPS), Texas’s SACWIS until August 2003. It continued in stages with separate regions being added to Statewide Intake every three to four months until July 1999 when the Houston region was assimilated and completed the process. State and local staff partnered to go into the community and talk to other local child welfare staff, professionals, members of the community, and law enforcement to gain support for the central intake center. One approach to gaining the support of law enforcement was the implementation of a separate prioritized phone number for law enforcement officials to call when reporting abuse and neglect. This allows them to automatically be the next call taken. Law enforcement officials may also report child abuse or neglect via the internet, fax, mail or e-mail.
The Texas Statewide Intake Center uses a Rockwell Spectrum Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to distribute calls. A reader board mounted on the wall in the call center gives intake workers and supervisors visual information regarding the number of calls holding and caller wait time.
Reports that have been accepted for investigation are assigned electronically to specific workloads in the appropriate county. Reports are prioritized and the highest-risk investigations are assigned and followed-up with a phone call to the local office. In many counties the assignment is made directly to a supervisor’s workload. In other areas, particularly more urban counties, the assignment is made to a designated support staff person’s workload. The staff person then assigns the investigation based on a local supervisory rotation list.
Cross-reports to law enforcement are made according to the local law enforcement office’s preference and technological capabilities. The cross-reports, which are transmitted without specific identifying information, are sent to law enforcement either via e-mail using MS Outlook or by fax using RightFax.
Call Center Workforce Management
When Texas began the rolling implementation of the central call center, administrators had very little information on which to base projected staffing needs. At the beginning stages it proved difficult to determine staffing needs in order to estimate the necessary financial support. While the call center was in its early stages, staff scheduling was done manually in a spreadsheet format.
Texas currently uses Genesis Pro, a workforce management program that projects staffing levels based on historical call volume for various times of the day, week, and year. This enables managers to schedule the appropriate staff levels and employ temporary intake workers during seasonal periods of high call volume. Genesis Pro also schedules shifts and breaks for all call center employees.
Digital Voice Recording
To assist investigators and supervisors in their investigation of child abuse or neglect, staff may access the actual voice recording of a phoned-in report. Texas uses Freedom Digital Voice Recording System, which allows supervisors to open the recording in a WAV file format. Investigators may use this to compare the actual live call to the documentation provided and to obtain any additional information that may not have been transcribed. A Quality Assurance Unit compares the information given by the caller to the actual documentation to ensure that intake workers provide complete and relevant information in the written reports.
Internet Reports of Abuse and Neglect
Non-emergency reports of child and adult abuse and neglect may now be submitted electronically through the state’s intake web site. On the report page, a professional or member of the community can complete a form with all relevant information regarding the suspected abuse or neglect. Reports made through the internet may not be anonymous. Contact information and most of the other information fields are required. Reporters receive a confirmation e-mail including the identification number of the report and the initials of the alleged victim of abuse or neglect. E-reports are encrypted using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security, which under Texas state law is sufficient for HIPAA-covered institutions to file reports of child abuse and neglect.
A specialized unit of intake workers read these electronic reports and the information is populated directly into IMPACT, Texas’ current web-based SACWIS system. This eliminates the need for intake workers to re-input information that has already been provided in the form by the reporter. While an intake worker taking live phone calls can usually handle about two calls an hour, a worker reading e-reports can process approximately 5-7 per hour.
In response to the need for a more consistent and efficient intake process, the state of Texas has utilized several technological applications to create their statewide intake system. Since its implementation, job turnover for intake workers has decreased and support of the system by stakeholders has increased significantly. For more information regarding Statewide Intake in Texas, please contact Michael.Norris@dfps.state.tx.us. For more information regarding the Texas SACWIS system, please contact Donna Marler, SACWIS/IMPACT Manager, at DONNA.MARLER@dfps.state.tx.us.
We hope that the Tips, Tools, and Trends series will serve to stimulate an exchange of ideas and information among States and between systems and program staff. Your feedback is important to us. If you have additional information on the topic presented in this sheet, or if you have any comments or suggestions regarding its presentation or content, please contact us at nrccwdt@xtria.com.

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