Tennessee children's services agency comes up with a contingency plan

Tennessee children's services agency comes up with a contingency plan

As the Tennessee Children's Services Department gradually deploys TN KIDS statewide, caseworkers will communicate with regional representatives to submit and retrieve data about the children they serve.

Caseworkers will access data indirectly until year 2000-ready system is completed in the spring

Claire E. House

GCN Staff

As they await completion of a new, year 2000-ready system, many Tennessee child services caseworkers will go up to six months without direct access to Department of Children's Services databases.

But the department won't let that stop the flow of information to and from the 2,000 employees who work with at-risk children.

'We have a year 2000 contingency plan that will allow us to totally replace two noncompliant systems with a workaround for our case managers to still be able to do our business,' DCS chief information officer Cynthia Vaughn said.

Filling the gap

The new system, TN KIDS (pronounced Tenn. kids), has been running since June in one pilot region. It will gradually roll out to the department's 11 other regions and the central office, with completion by spring.

But DCS must take down the old systems in October. So it has to set up an alternate electronic and paper route in the meantime.

TN KIDS holds data in Oracle8 databases running on Sun Microsystems Enterprise 4000 servers under SunSoft Solaris. Caseworkers access the system through Children's Services' WAN via a PC interface developed in PowerBuilder from Sybase Inc.

By next month, the department will link a selected site in each region to TN KIDS and train several users extensively on it. Those users will be the TN KIDS point of reference for the entire region.

'These folks are not only going to have to know how to get around the system, they're going to have to know the whole system,' Vaughn said.

The department has set up WAN-accessible template files for information submission. Caseworkers will pull up data forms on their PCs, fill out information and either e-mail the forms or print and fax them to their regional representatives. The representatives will then enter the data into TN KIDS.

Caseworkers can call or e-mail information requests to their representatives, who can follow up with simple answers or printed reports.

DCS was formed three years ago as a one-stop child services agency. Caseworkers relied on data from three systems: the Client Operation and Review System, the Offender-Based State Criminal Information System and the Social Services Management System.'The department merged OBSIS with CORS and has migrated that system's data into TN KIDS. SSMS data will be available on the network for reference but will not be moved into the new system. TN KIDS will instead start from scratch holding the social services data, Vaughn said.

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