County buying iPads for Children Services workers

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the purchase of iPads, service plans and system upgrades for Hamilton County Job and Family Services Children Services Division field workers Wednesday.

Commission President Greg Hartmann proposed purchasing the technology upgrades, which will assist these front-line workers with more efficient management of their caseloads.

The issue of technology for field workers came up after 2-year-old Damarcus Jackson died shortly after being places with his father after being in foster care; his father has been charged with aggravated murder.

"Our Children Services Division, like almost every area of County government during this economic downturn, has seen unprecedented reductions in staffing since 2007," Hartmann said. "This technology upgrade will give our front-line workers instant access to state and local case management information, improve their reporting and increase their productivity while working with our most vulnerable population."

The County will purchase an estimated 187 iPad devices to improve the accuracy, efficiency and timeliness of case management and decrease travel time for field workers. The County's Tax Levy Review Committee consultant and HCJFS staff have both recommended the utilization of improved technology, which they estimate will significantly increase productivity by assisting Children's Services workers while in the field.

Currently, field workers conduct four to five home visits with the parents or caregivers and the children they oversee across the County. During these visits, caseworkers take hand-written notes about each case, and must drive back downtown to HCJFS offices to finally enter their basic notes and other pertinent information from memory into state and local systems. Caseworkers then return to the field to conduct additional visits under the same process. This new technology will enable field workers to have instant access to the most up-to-date information about a child's case before visiting with the child or caregiver and allow for information to be retrieved during their interview. Caseworkers will also immediately be able to record data regarding their visit at the conclusion of the interview.

HCJFS is currently piloting a program to distribute these devices to a small number of field workers to ensure workers can access the necessary state and local systems as well as protect the security of the information within the devices. The devices will only be used by front-line workers that spend a majority of their time in the community.

The technology upgrades will be purchased through an allocation from the Children Services Levy reserve. The County has set aside over $28 million in the Levy to pay a potential request from the federal government concerning prior year audits, and will allocate $330,000 to fund the technology upgrades from these reserves.

The proposal directs County Administration to conduct the necessary competitively bid process to purchase the devices. Administration will incorporate the allocation of $330,000 from the Children Services Levy reserve in the County's 2012 Restricted Funds Budget which will be approved later this month.

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