Abstracts of Volume 12 of Computers in Human Services, 1995

Special issue on the HUSITA-3 Conference in Maastricht. Edited by Jackie Rafferty, Jan Steyaert and David Colombi.


Volume 12(1/2), 1995

(Volume 12 contains the proceedings from the Husita-3 Conference held in Maastricht Netherlands, June, 1993)

Forward by Theo Willemsen

Preface by Jackie Rafferty, Jan Steyaert & David Colombi, Guest Editors


Section 1: The Quality of Life

Introduction by Jackie Rafferty


Independence to the blind and handicapped in Asia through modern assistive devices by Joseph E. Varghese

ABSTRACT: It is estimated that there are around 100 million disabled people in India alone. This is more than three times the population of Canada. The disabled in India and Asia are not in possession of many devices with which they may combat their disabilities. Some do have access to low level technological devices, very few have access to medium-tech devices, only a handful have access to high-tech items. Production, distribution and promotion of assistive devices for the handicapped can only be achieved through the active co-operation of trans-national agencies. This is the need of the handicapped in Asia today.


Facilitating Citizenship by Geoff Busby

ABSTRACT: Approximately 1 in 10 of the world's population is made up of people with disabilities. Such disabilities, even in the western world, has the effect of denying full citizenship in the terms of freedom of choice to do what you want, when you want and how. To some degree technology can help facilitate this citizenship. My paper attempts to describe this technology and moreover questions whether more could be done if there were to be a change is the sense of vales in the more developed nations.


The computer dilemma: harming the helpers by Richard Reinoehl, Jack Coates, Diane Russell, Adam Engst, Tonya Engst & Gregory Stosuy

ABSTRACT: As computer use in health and human service organizations increases, so are the number of workers susceptible to soft tissue and joint dysfunction. These problems can be manifested as low back, cervical, shoulder girdle, and wrist-hand related disorders. Some common, recognizable conditions are Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain Syndrome. An under-utilization of ergonomic principles for computer work stations is a primary cause but even strict adherence to ergonomic guidelines can result in disorders. Preventive actions, however, can be taken by introducing relatively simple systemic changes in organizational procedures. Such changes should be part of a broader, more holistic understanding of human relationships within organizations.


Race equality and information technology in Europe by Kish Bhatti-Sinclair

ABSTRACT: This paper will focus on how Information Technology (IT) impacts on the quality of black people, with reference to the recent rise of racism in the European Community member states, and the potential of IT to improve their quality of life.


The Legislation on privacy protection and social research by Erik Van Hove

ABSTRACT: The heightened attention to privacy protection and the enactment of laws to control the flow of personal information is linked to developments in information technology. However, the awesome development in information technology is not the sole reason to give more attention to information control. Citizens have become alert and are more aware of their rights. A key role with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data is taken by the Convention for the Protection of Individuals adopted by the Council of Europe on January 28 1981. The twelve countries of the European Community have signed this treaty and implemented national privacy laws. These laws leave little room for the special requirements of social or epidemiological research. Removing scientific research completely from the scope of privacy laws is not a solution, nor is the full application of rules which were formulated with other problems in mind. The introduction of powerful information technology in scientific research and progress in emancipation of citizens raises the problem of controlling that flow of information in the research context as well as in other spheres of action. The research community has a tradition of open communication which can easily come into conflict with the need to be careful with personal information. Clarification of rules of conduct and some external controls are advisable.


Section 2: Learning and Educational Technology in Social Work

Introduction by Jackie Rafferty


Using a computer network for social work training by Poliana Stefanescu

ABSTRACT: The social worker needs basic knowledge about human behaviour, the economic and social structure of society, law and regulations, etc. In recent years, knowledge about new methods and techniques for registering, reporting and analysing data and information has become necessary for the social worker. This paper deals with the introduction of a new course in Social Informatics in the Department of Social Work at the University of Bucharest. This department was established at the University after December 1989. The paper describes the starting point and motivation for a course in Informatics and contains a short presentation of the curriculum and gives information about the computer network and software used by the students. The results during and after the first year of teaching are mentioned and there is also a discussion about the opportunities the graduate students will have to use IT in social work practice. Finally, the conclusions lead to an optimistic approach regarding the utility of "Social Informatics" courses.


Multimedia training for child protective service workers: initial test results by Rosemary Satterwhite and Dick Schoech

ABSTRACT: Child protective service agencies are showing increasing interest in computer based training due to factors such as deskilling of worker tasks, high turnover, and court orders to improve worker performance. Recent developments in computer-based multimedia offer new potential for computer based training. This article describes a child protective services case simulation and the results of preliminary testing. Fourteen users with a variety of experience responded very favorably to the design and learning that occurred by working the simulated case. Issues concern the lack of informal guidance while working the simulated case and the need to tailor the complexity of the simulation to the intended audience.


Computers in education: added value leading toward better quality by Albert Visser

ABSTRACT: The reasons why students work with computers in social work education are threefold: computers and software are increasingly general tools, as well as tools in professional practice and educational technology is supplying schools with more computer based learning materials. The use of computers in the learning process is leading to better quality professional preparation of students, in that they have to learn to cope with innovations in professional practice. Computers are increasingly used for word processing in practice, but also in managerial and financial information systems and not least in being an aid in directly helping clients (for instance in assessing processes, in interviewing and calculation of benefits). The necessity of learning about different ways of using computers in professional practice is described elsewhere in this book. (Lieshout). Computers are also improving the quality of the learning process itself. This article will not only highlight the didactics of courseware but also give some strategical hints about effective implementation of computers for better social work education.


Critical thinking: a meta-skill for integrating practice and information technology training by Paula Nurius

ABSTRACT: Human services are at a developmental stage that requires less orientation to the computer as a machine and more to the computer as a medium of thought and expression. We now have advances in cognitive research on information processing and technological experience with agency information management to inform and guide training that supports such an orientation. This paper first presents a framework for identifying needed elements, using critical thinking as a meta-skill to integrate training related to practice and technology. A series of examples are presented to illustrate integrative, critical thinking training at three different skill levels.


Section 3: Widening Communications

Introduction by David Colombi


Building the future: communication camps-the real utopia! By Ritva-Sini Harkonen

ABSTRACT: The most important skills of the future would be communication skills - that is why communication camps for children and youngsters are implemented. The camp is more that mere media technology, it is a way of living and learning together. At the camp children take part in five activities: press, video, radio, telecommunications and catering. The theory behind the activities stresses such constructs as interaction, non-hierarchy, cultural change, equal rights, internal luxury and media literacy. The main goal of the camp is to educate children (and adults) to be active builders of the future who work for a better interactively-communicative world.


Using advanced communications and multimedia applications to provide real life benefits to remote rural areas: BARBARA by Jenny Brogden and Cara Williams

ABSTRACT: The Barbara Project is an exciting project which is designing and implementing interactive, multimedia technology to improve the quality of council and other services delivered to rural communities. The rural communities involved in the project are in: Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Germany. The full range of multimedia will be used to support the service, such as simultaneous: voice, video, data (text and image). The main emphasis of the project is in user-involvement from an early stage, so that technology is not foisted upon rural communities and so the whole project is user-led rather than technology led. To enable this to happen a continuous process of consultation and review been instigated to allow for the participant communities to be involved in deciding what services are to be delivered and in which ways the service will be presented on the unit. This paper describes the scope of the Barbara Project and the initial findings of the research.


Computer access for people with special needs by Harald Weber, Gerhard Zimmermann and Klaus Zink

ABSTRACT: To maximize the accessibility of computers for people with special needs (such as people with handicaps), fundamental changes in the design of the user-computer interface are necessary. The support of user-adapted input devices or techniques and of a multi-sensitive communication embedded in the computers operating system will be presented. For this, basic models will be shown to describe the user-computer-software system. An analysis of the user's capabilities and the requirements of both software and devices leads to supporting tools that will be implemented by an installation unit. This package of tools will act as an intermediary between the operating system and every application.


The evergreen software for planning services for the elderly by Marja Vaarama

ABSTRACT: Evergreen is a microsimulation computer program intended for strategic planning of welfare and health services for the elderly. Evergreen software consists of a main file of about 200 variables (databank of services for the elderly), with four planning models added (the laissez-faire, normative, humanistic and economist model), together with a correcting and updating program. The program enables systematization of different policy strategies and their consequences in terms of the number of clients, the resources required for the service system in personnel, funds and room as well as in terms of costs both in total and per head. Primarily it is suited for local and national-level planning, but is also applicable to regional planning. Evergreen is operable in IBM-compatible microcomputers with the absolute prerequisite of a hard disk with at least 5.9 megabytes of free memory for software files and operation.


Towards consensus in human services computer networking by Thomas Hanna

ABSTRACT: Human services providers have not taken quickly to the idea of using computers to expand their networks for solving problems. Recently, the technical and external barriers to human services networking have been lowered. Networking specialists involved with Human Services Information Technology Applications meetings (HUSITA) worked as a consortium to build a set of connected networks operating under the banner of HumanServe on the Institute for Global Communications computers in San Francisco, California. In the broader world of computer networking, connectivity continues to be a key concern, and the Internet backbone seems to hold the solution. The HumanServe experiment was accompanied by two years of cooperation among human services network coordinators. The climate for connectivity and accessibility are more favorable now than at any time, but networks are proliferating with only few subscribers and weak information resources. The new challenge is to organize and network the knowledge base. The field of child abuse and neglect, with its interdisciplinary nature and its critical information needs, may be the prime candidate for implementing the new model network.


Volume 12(3/4), 1995

Section 4: Assessment and provision of services

Introduction by David Colombi


From oral tradition to computerization: a case study of a social work department by Mary D. Howard

ABSTRACT: Demands for increased productivity of social workers in a suburban psychiatric hospital were buffered by developing a computerized information and referral system of community aftercare resources. The development and implementation of the system are discussed with the administrative, technical, and social­psychological problems encountered in the first three years.


Automated report writing by Mike Ferriter

ABSTRACT: This paper describes the development of a prototype computerised psychiatric social history system that provided both statistics and a draft narrative report in word processed form. Using this prototype system roughly halved the production time for the final report. The paper then goes on to describe a user-friendly shell system developed from the prototype that allows new systems, based on user defined interviewing schedules to be developed with relative ease. This system, called R-Quest©, allows the user to construct libraries of questions, tables and lists which can be drawn upon to construct new questionnaires.


Decision support system for planning and evaluating interventions in vocational rehabilitation services for the disabled by Dorit Barak, Dina Alon & Magi Amara

ABSTRACT: This paper presents a Group Decision Support System (GDSS) for planning and evaluating interventions in the area of vocational rehabilitation of disabled people. On the basis of the conceptual framework of planned, systematic social work, the workers' current practice knowledge was mapped out and a model for planning and evaluating interventions was developed. This model served as the basis for developing the system's prototype. This system has been designed with the full cooperation of the workers, who, following a two­year implementation period, concluded that the system contributes to their professional decision making and interventions.


Training in computer related occupations: an opportunity for vocational rehabilitation of physically challenged individuals by John Vafeas

ABSTRACT: The need for qualified computer professionals worldwide is presenting physically challenged individuals with unique employment opportunities. This paper presents a model for initiating and operating training programs in computer related occupations. Emphasis is placed on admission and selection procedures, the computer curriculum and professional behavior training, as well as on placement activities. The special partnership between industry, the vocational rehabilitation system and educational institutions is examined. Attention is given to the role of social work in initiating and maintaining this partnership and implementing the professional behavior training aspect of the program.


Unemployment in the Czech republic and development of an expert system for assessing unemployment compensation by Jana Hanclova

ABSTRAC: This paper addresses contemporary problems of unemployment in the Czech Republic (finding optimal alternatives of organizational structures of services of employment agencies). Based on characteristics and knowledge of information flows of the decision making process of claimants of unemployment compensation, a prototype expert system was developed to support this decision making. Results of this research were evaluated from two points of view ­ the theoretical and practical benefits.


The development of a computerized information system for integrated home care in the Netherlands by Eric Verkaar

ABSTRACT: In September 1992, the Netherlands Institute of Care and Welfare (NIZW) started development of GIRST, a computerized information system for the new integrated home care services in The Netherlands. These services integrated home nursing and family care services, with many institutions merging to facilitate the process. This integration required reorganization of information processes and new technology makes possible improvement in their quality. These two reasons stimulated NIZW to develop GIRST, which is designed as a tool to facilitate provision of care: it is not focused upon managerial issues but on information needs and issues of those who actually provide care. Four parts of the process of providing home care are 'translated' into four modules of GIRST: care coordination - care allocation-care in practice-care evaluation. GIRST is being developed by a non commercial institute for developing care and welfare in The Netherlands in cooperation with a few small specialized firms, not by a large commercial software firm. In developing GIRST particular ways of prototyping were chosen to formulate functional and technical descriptions. Both choices are unconventional but enable development of a very flexible and highly practical information system for home care services.


Section 5: Information Systems for agencies and practitioners

Introduction by Jan Steyaert


Organizational influences on management information systems in the human services by Bernard Neugeboren

ABSTRACT: Successful development and implementation of MIS requires an understanding of how organization goals and structures constrain and/or facilitate MIS. Some organizational factors influencing MIS are: ideology, staff resistance, power structure, efficiency vs. effectiveness; agency stability, leadership, organizational change and politics and self interest. Strategies to overcome these barriers are: structural location of MIS; user involvement in MIS design and implementation; and organizational analysis as perquisites for MIS.


Integrated information systems for human services: a conceptual framework, methodology and technology by Rami Benbenishty and Daphna Oyserman

ABSTRACT: A conceptual framework and methodology to design and implement clinical information systems to support direct practice is described. This article presents an analysis of the information needs of clinicians in human service organisations. Three main uses of information are identified: monitoring/tracking, communicating/reporting and learning from experience. In order to meet these needs, practitioners have to gather information, store it and process it. The article demonstrates the methodology and conceptual framework with a series of examples of applications.


Reliability issues in the development of computerized information systems by Gail Auslander and Miriam Cohen

ABSTRACT: This paper examines issues of reliability in the development of computerized information systems and presents several strategies for dealing with them. It is based on our experience in developing a national hospital social work information system in Israel. Strategies included the careful and explicit definition of categories and the assessment of inter-rater reliability based on case records and on the systematic manipulation of key variables. Analysis of the data confirmed the reliability of most items of the system. It also pointed out a number of problem areas, and service as the basis for further refining variable categories and definitions to overcome difficulties revealed in the study.


The quality of information and communication-some slow remarks in a rapid age by Geert van der Laan

ABSTRACT: The rapid developments in the field of software and hardware would lead one to expect an improvement in information processing in fields such as social work. However, that is only the case to a very limited extent. One of the most prominent problems with information systems is that they tend to apply bad classifications. Although an information system with broad categories is easy for employees to fill in, the problem is that they tend to paint the same picture year after year. A differentiated classification provides more and better information. A condition is, of course, that the classification is done carefully and contains logically exclusive categories.


The Dutch Client Databank in Public Social Work by Jos Potting

ABSTRACT: The history of the Dutch national databank for Public Social Work began in 1960 in the province of Limburg. Social workers in that province met at a seminar and decided to set up a registration system concerning client characteristics and the counselling process which all the institutes of public social work in Limburg could be required to register in an uniform way. Thirty three years later Dutch Public Social Work agencies are registering data according to a national system which was wanted, designed and developed by the united local authorities and all the institutes of Public Social Work. As a result the national Databank Public Social Work administers the data of all of the 166 institutes in the Netherlands and consequently is privileged to deal with the client characteristics and other specific data of the 250,000 client units that are involved every year with Public Social Work.


Information technology and quality management in public social work by Leon de Haas

ABSTRACT: Managing a non-profit organization for public social work is primarily a matter of quality management which is the responsibility of the service manager. Because of (a) the actual state of quality assurance in the public social work branches, and (b) the professional character of the organizations, a Public Social Work Quality System asks for intensive involvement of professional workers in the development of the system. PS+QS is both a development method and a system model. It organizes the clients' routing through the institution. The major part of the workflow management concerns phasing of the service and counselling processes. PS+QS is a system of communication structured by information techniques. Professional counsellors and their service managers apply the professional standards and check on their application.


A national registration system for youth assistance by Anja Smorenburg

ABSTRACT: The SRJV (Registration Foundation of Youth Facilities) is a national Dutch organisation that is responsible for setting up a national registration system for youth services. The main objective of the foundation is to generate information for government policy and management information for the involved organisations. To gain better insight into this territory, it is essential to have knowledge of a number of developments within youth assistance in the Netherlands. This will be in line with the new law on youth assistance, which has been effective since the middle of 1989. The previous history and the development of the registration system will be discussed. Attention will also be given to the actual structure of the system. A look into the future will conclude this article.


Solving the problems of computer use in social work by Peter Roosenboom

ABSTRACT: The problems encountered when introducing information technology in social work are commonly considered as caused by computer fear among social workers. A distinction is introduced between automation and "informatisation." Introduction of IT applications in social work is an informatisation process most of the time, which means that new information is produced whose role in the organisation is not yet defined nor accepted. Organisational as well as technical suggestions are made to solve this problem


Section 6: Reflections

Introduction by Jan Steyaert


Two faces of information technology: what does the social worker see in the mirror? by Yitzhak Berman and David Phillips

ABSTRACT: The relationship between social work and information technology (IT) is explored and conclusions are drawn about using IT effectively within a social work value framework. Conceptions of the nature of IT within social work are reviewed, followed by a discussion of different paradigms of social work. Behavioural social work is used as an example of effective interaction between IT and social work. It is argued that IT can enhance professional practice across the whole spectrum of social work approaches without compromising their humanistic value base.


IT and knowledge development in human services: tool, paradigm and promise by Robert J. MacFadden

ABSTRACT: The role of computers in knowledge developments is explored from two perspectives: the computer as a tool to enhance knowledge development and the computer as a major influence or paradigm affecting the nature and structure of knowledge development. As a tool, the computer is without precedence, continually transforming to meet current and future knowledge needs. Examples of this are provided. As a paradigm, the computer will support the