Ohio launches platform to match foster children with families
Using a specialized search engine and a family tree building tool, social workers will be able to connect foster children to extended family members.
Ohio has launched a statewide platform to help social workers connect the state’s 3,100 foster youth with permanent families.
Children’s services and the foster care system can be difficult for social workers to navigate, often forcing them to track down and engage with a child’s extended family members on their own. Through a partnership with Connect Our Kids, social workers can access the company’s People Search and Family Connections tools to map out family trees and find contact information 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 that Connect Our Kids partners with. With People Search, social workers, family recruiters and court appointed special advocates can more easily locate and contact the extended families or guardians of foster children.
Users can search by name, address, email and phone number to find potential caregivers. The company’s customized front-end to PIPL’s algorithm makes the tool intuitive for social workers, Connect Our Kids CEO Jennifer Jacobs said.
The Family Connections tool uses information from People Search to create genograms, or diagrams of a person's family relationships to help social workers build a full family tree. Jacobs, a former military official who previously worked at Sandia National Laboratories and as a tech consultant, said the idea was inspired by software used by federal agencies to build out networks of terrorist organizations.
Manually keeping track of children and families – on paper or in Excel spreadsheets – is inefficient and in need of an overhaul, Jacobs told GCN.
“There is a lot of work in child welfare that has to be done by humans, but … finding, importing and organizing data” is better 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 available to provide immediate, short-term or long-term help, and who is not – streamlining work processes for social workers.
Additionally, users can add any new information they find, like details on relatives, into a search box as the tool’s algorithm tries to match the information to its People Search records. If there is a match, all the 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 workers’ activity.
“Using this technology is data sharing at its best to help find forever homes for kids in foster care. It’s going to save children’s services professionals time and resources,” Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted said.
This article was changed Jan. 2 to delete mention of medical data in the Family Connections tool. The software does not doesn’t have a medical conditions aspect; the family diagrams are solely about the relationships. We regret the error.
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