Barnardos is migrating important client data to a cloud-based case management platform for improved child well-being, finds Bonnie Gardiner.

Struggling with disparate software has become a thing of the past for Barnardos, after the child welfare group introduced interconnectivity, simplified user experiences and improved client well-being with its new cloud-based case management system, MyStory.

Tracking about 3000 clients per day, case workers would previously use three separate systems to record and access client records, creating the potential for sensitive client data to be lost or overlooked. 'A case worker could never see those records in one place and it was very messy," said Sue cribb, head of IT for Barnardos.
 
The three systems comprised a client database to record basic services; an Out of Home Care case management system, which included case manager records for children in foster care; and a family support system. As systems weren't able to talk to each other, staff often had to manually re-enter information.

"Some data also wasn't the same across the platforms, so we had to determine the single source of truth," said Cribb.

Adopting MyStory has improved the way children's life stories are captured and stored, while streamlining workflow and minimising administration for case workers. The new approach also created transparency across case histories, so children no longer have to retell their story and relive painful memories.

In addition, the new system has had to take into account differences in welfare legislation for states, territories and agencies across A/NZ.

Creation of the new platform was done with Microsoft Azure, and as a joint effort between the Barnardos Practice Development and IT teams, and chosen technology partner, Readify. User experience design agency, Folk, was also brought in to assist with concept creation.

"Readify and the IT team worked closely with us to ensure the system would be user friendly, embed good casework practice and, most importantly, promote permanency and better outcomes for children," said Cribb.

It was important case workers could see value in using the system, she said. "It's easy for IT people to build a data collection system, but case workers might get nothing out of it, so we try to give them something to support their work as well," she said.

Barnardos completed data migration from its client database in May 2012, followed by the case management data in December 2013. It is still working with Readify to migrate data from its family services system.

The platform is available to nearly 500 case workers on any device, and is accessible to other agencies via a SaaS model. Another key benefit of MyStory was the ability to capture important moments or memories, such as a child's drawings hung on the fridge or a correspondence with the birth parents of a child in foster care.

To track complex relationships, Readify included a graph database on top of Neo4j's native graph engine that shows connections between a child, their family, their case workers and people they are in touch with. The team also created a library function allowing case workers
to upload children's photos, videos, assessments, health records, drawings, school certificates and letters to build a digital life story, which can be shared with family members and carers.

Building the MyStory solution has led to internal changes for Barnardos, including growing the IT team from two developers to seven. The team also uses Agile methodology.

A key challenge has been migrating data, which Cribb said is "still coming back to bite us" because validation and business rules between the two systems weren't compatible. The other challenge was meeting expectations around functionality within their preferred time-frame. "We have a very business-driven process, so we try to meet business needs first and foremost," Cribb added.

(This article was first published in CIO Magazine's October 2015 issue.)

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