State consolidates data on child care programs

Colorado consolidates data on child care programs

Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood has gone to the cloud for tools to improve the quality rating system for child care and education programs across the state.

Funded by a four-year, $44.8 million Department of Education Race-to-the-Top grant, the Office of Early Childhood recently upgraded rating systems that give providers as well as parents  data-driven views of the quality of early child care programs, providers and educators across the state.

The state considers a broad set of factors in evaluating child care providers. “We not only do the basic licensing to make sure they meet minimum heath and safety requirements to operate as a child care business, but we assess them on their teacher qualifications, the quality of materials and instructional practices and things that produce a higher quality facility that could inform parents’ choice around the type of care they’re seeking for their kids,” Colin Tackett, a business analyst with the state’s Department of Human Services, said.

Colorado had run its own quality ratings system for about 13 years prior to receiving the Race to the Top grant. But because it was an old system, much of the ratings-related information was housed in separate, legacy databases.  “We really want to leverage this grant opportunity to modernize our platform, update the tools we use to observe these facilities and to align a lot of our business processes,” Tackett said.  That meant bringing the ratings, referral and licensing applications under one roof and making that data accessible to the child care providers as well as other state agencies.

In pursuing the plan, the Early Childhood Office first looked for off-the-shelf solutions designed to manage those processes. “However, we realized the products were too rigid and  wouldn’t allow for a whole lot of customization or allow us to do the alignment with some of the other projects that we manage,” Tackett said.

To help overcome the hurdles, the Early Childhood Office created a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) based on two cloud-based technologies: the Salesforce CRM platform and Scribe Online, an enterprise integration platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) tool from Scribe Software that helped streamline processes and integrate the datasets required to more accurately score the performance of the providers.

Many of the processes related to the ratings system were being handled by third parties around the state, according to Lynn Lannin, director of professional services for Vertiba, a system integrator that works with Salesforce. “So when Colorado received the Race to the Top grant, the state … decided to pull all these processes together,” she said. “Salesforce allowed us a platform to do that.”

The more obvious candidates for consolidation were grants and invoices handled on spreadsheets. “That’s a perfect use case for us to come in and build an application that supports that process,” Lannin said.

“Salesforce allows us to rapidly build data models to support these applications,” she said, who noting that the platform comes with a workflow engine  that can be harnessed for similar use cases. Once we build a Salesforce application for one workflow or process, “we can replicate and do it again,” Lannin said. “We’ve done if for early child care, for adult protective services and domestic violence, and it’s a real similar pattern.”

“Overall it’s complex case management,”  she said.

The Early Childhood Office used Scribe Online to import licensing and ratings data from legacy Oracle databases into Salesforce, allowing users to update those records based on ratings and referrals, and to share that data with partners, such as the Department of Education.

Scribe is also being used to support on-demand data inquiries and nightly data synchronizations, neither of which were possible before. The integration tool has also cut down on duplicate data entry, Tackett said.

The Office of Early Childhood also recently set up a Salesforce-based public website, making it possible for families to search of licensed facilities and look for quality rating information.

“The Scribe iPaaS is so easy to use that I can remap fields in the interface, change or troubleshoot existing integrations and add new integrations -- all without any advanced Salesforce or database training,” he said.

After Colorado implemented the solution, Tackett said his office received requests from other states that had been awarded the same federal grant and had some of the same goals in modernizing their ratings system.

“I think we’re going to see some opportunities in the next couple of years where other states have built on Salesforce” for business process integration and customer service, he said.

“I’m excited to see how they iterate on what we have.”

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.

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