Ohio launched a statewide platform to help social workers connect the state’s 3,100 youth in foster care with permanent families.
Children’s services and the foster care system can be difficult to navigate for social workers, often requiring them to seek out and engage on their own with a child’s extended family members. Through a partnership with Connect Our Kids, social workers can access the company’s People Finder and Family Connections tools to map family trees and find contact details for potential caregivers.
People Search is a free search engine that leverages data from over 300 public domain sources and from PIPL, an identity information provider with which Connect Our Kids is a partner. Through person tracing, social workers, family recruiters and court-appointed special advocates can more easily locate and contact extended families or guardians of children in care.
Users can search by name, address, email, and phone number to find potential caregivers. The company’s custom front-end to PIPL’s algorithm makes the tool intuitive for social workers, said Jennifer Jacobs, CEO of Connect Our Kids.
The Family Connections tool uses information from people tracing to create genograms or diagrams of a person’s family relationships and medical history to help caregivers create a complete family tree. Jacobs, a former military official who previously worked at Sandia National Laboratories and as a technical consultant, said the idea was inspired by software used by federal agencies to create networks of terrorist organizations.
Manual tracking of children and families – on paper or in Excel spreadsheets – is inefficient and needs an overhaul, Jacobs told GCN.
“There is a lot of work in child protection that needs to be done by humans, but… finding, importing and organizing data” is best handled by technology, she said.
Hosted on the Google Cloud platform, Family Connections allows teams to work together. The color-coded family tree can quickly show which family members are available to provide immediate, short, or long-term help and who are not, simplifying work processes for social workers.
Additionally, users can add any new information they find, such as details of loved ones, into a search box while the tool’s algorithm tries to match the information to its people search records. If there is a match, all new information can be easily imported into the database. Those building the tree will also have access to a built-in log function that tracks social worker activity.
“Using this technology is the best way to share data to help find permanent homes for foster children. This will save children’s service professionals time and resources, ”said Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.