Susan Kinnevy, MSW
University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work
Center for the Study of Youth Policy
4200 Pine St. 3rd Floor
Philadelphia PA 19104
Technology, Social work, Risk assessment, Case management
This presentation describes and illustrates some of the software now available for use in clinical practice and/or administrative positions, particularly in the area of case management and risk assessment. The presentation targets intake workers, case managers, and child welfare service providers.
Social work is in the process of being transformed by web-based technology that promises to make it both more efficient and effective. Social workers need to understand and implement technological advances while remaining faithful to the traditional social work mission and value system. This presentation describes and illustrates some of the software now available for use in clinical practice and/or administrative positions, particularly in the area of case management and risk assessment. The presentation targets intake workers, case managers, and child welfare service providers.
With regard to case management, the complaint most often heard from case managers is that large caseloads make it difficult to see clients with desired frequency. The traditional response has been to add resources in the form of more workers, but proper use of technology can maximize the time and skill of current workers and make daily contact with clients possible. Instead of tracking clients on the basis of infrequent face-to-face visits, online case management allows clients to answer a set of pre-selected questions that are subsequently turned into a report transmitted to their caseworker. The use of this technology is meant to supplement, not replace, face-to-face contact, and will be particularly useful with high-functioning clients who are willing to work toward change. The use of this technology is meant to supplement, not replace, face-to-face contact, and is already in use by some agencies. As this technology proliferates, ethical issues of equal access and client confidentiality must be explored.
Technology can also be used to facilitate risk assessment, which has always been more of a subjective art than a rigorous science, despite breakthroughs in criteria-based assessment and emphasis on outcome measurement. Neural networks can be used to calibrate risk assessments to a much finer degree of accuracy by assigning risk scores on an algorithmic curve. Variables are weighted based on previous outcomes and used to predict future outcomes. Cases can be ordered by risk score on a single outcome or a composite of outcomes. Scores change daily according to both client and service provider input. Red flags on changes in risk level trigger action on the part of case managers and service providers. Use of this technology on historical child abuse data resulted in a predictor rate of over 90%.
The presentation will demonstrate a case management software package already in use by Volunteers of America and a risk assessment software package under consideration by three state child welfare agencies. The company pioneering this software development is staffed with social workers, MBA’s, and computer engineers.