Web tool speeds services for at-risk youth in Mich.

A Web-based communication tool is helping a Michigan county help troubled youth.

Elizabeth O'Dell, collaboration coordinator for the St. Joseph County Human Services Commission, said the county adopted Web collaboration software as part of a move toward more-unified forms and documents.

When a juvenile came into the county's social services system, each agency had to track records for that person. If a caseworker made a change to a person's file, frequently another agency wouldn't learn about it for weeks.

'Retyping, reprinting, all that,' O'Dell said. 'We longed for the day when we could use a computer-based program to keep records.'

The county decided to use collaboration software from GuardianTrac LLC of Burr Oak, Mich.

Before, if caseworkers wanted to make a change to someone's records, they had to phone the representatives of the other social services agencies, or send them a fax or an e-mail, O'Dell said. Now the GuardianTrac system can update all of a juvenile's records across several county agencies in one fell swoop.

The commission's system administrator assigns users accessibility to information based on need-to-know levels.

Parents also can use GuardianTrac to communicate with agencies, O'Dell said. A parent can call the system up and inform all the agencies of a significant event in the family, such as the loss of a job, she said.

The county is using the GuardianTrac tool for social services, child welfare, mental health and education.

The rural community of 60,000 has nine school districts and is located near Michigan's border with Indiana.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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