Online Program

Introducing Technology in Child Welfare Referrals for Health and Social Services

Monday, November 2, 2015

Elinam Dellor, MPH, Community Health Sciences, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Kristina Lovato-Hermann, MSW, Lusking School of Public Affairs, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Jennifer Price-Wolf, PhD MSW MPH, Prevention Research Center, Oakland
Bridget Freisthler, PhD, School of Social Welfare, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Susanna Curry, MSW, UCLA Luskin School of Social Welfare, Los Angeles, CA
Child maltreatment is a major health problem that carries serious consequences over the life course. Abused or neglected children have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, substance use, engaging in sexual activity at a young age, obesity, cancer and heart disease. The child welfare system is charged by state and federal law to protect children from abuse and neglect. When children are removed from caregivers, the child welfare system is also mandated to address the specific needs of each family. Oftentimes, this means facilitating access to services related to mental and physical health as well as basic needs. Access to health and social services is critical for the wellbeing and safety of children and ultimately for reunification of families. Linking families to services however, varies by caseworker and can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Internet-based technology, with its inherent interactive nature may be particularly effective for improving the linkage process in the child welfare system. 

Here, the implementation of the DCFS Needs Portal, an internet-based intervention to improve the timing and quality of health and social service referrals in Los Angeles County is described and analyzed. In-depth interviews were conducted with ten service providers and caseworkers to determine perceived benefits and barriers to adopting the Needs Portal. We also analyzed feedback obtained from users of the Needs Portal to examine how the flow of information between users and developers is used to adapt to user needs. Our analyses revealed four major themes: 1) caseworker apprehension over new technology, 2) lack of communication between caseworkers and service providers, 3) lack of technological infrastructure and 4) competing workplace demands. Our findings suggest a need to embrace the internet as a timely and efficient way to link families to much needed health and social services in real time.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the implementation of the DCFS Needs Portal, an internet-based intervention to improve the timing and quality of health and social service referrals in the Los Angeles County Child Welfare System.

Keyword(s): Child Abuse, Communication Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have over 8 years experience working with survivors of child maltreatment. My dissertation focuses on the physical and mental health consequences of maltreatment.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.