Adult Services and Mobile Technology: There’s an App for That

Adult Services: There's an App for That
Adult Services Social Worker Kristen Hamilton helps a client sign a form using a mobile app

In today’s technology-enabled world, adult services social workers are looking for better ways to help them with their work, but they may be worried about how their clients will react.

In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, a day to bring together senior citizens, their caregivers, and governments to combat the problem of elder abuse, we want to show how implementing mobile technology can actually help adult services social workers improve the quality of interaction with their clients.

Workers at agencies that use a mobile app designed for adult services are able to update client and case information, complete new forms, and have the clients sign forms electronically on a tablet during visits.

Initially, social workers were worried their clients would be resistant to a change in how services were being provided. But with today’s technology where simply buying a gallon of milk means signing on an electronic signature pad, there have been no issues from clients, and amazing productivity gains and stress relief for social workers.

“I was a little iffy about how my elderly clients would handle the tablets… using technology, but they took to it great,” said Kristen Hamilton, Adult Services Social Worker for Beaufort County Department of Social Services.

The main benefits social workers experience are:

1. Improved Trust

With social workers having the ability to record and transcribe interviews or type case notes with their tablet, they have found they can be more engaged during the interview, building trust with those who are most in need.

2. Faster Community Referrals

Social workers are also able to coordinate faster care, as known client and case information auto populates within all forms and both the client and the worker can sign the forms using the tablet. The worker can then send any medical and mental health forms to a referred community services provider, directly connecting their client to the help they require.

3. Complete Case History

The instantaneous access to all of their client’s documents, including all of the client’s past medical history, saves the worker time and the client benefits by knowing all their records are secure in one place.

To learn more about implementing technology in adult services agencies, we hope you’ll join us for our upcoming Webinar, “Adult Services: There’s an App for That,” on Tuesday, June 30 at 12pm Eastern.

New Field Placement Model With Crittenton Earns Award from CSU Fullerton for its “Teaching and Mentorship” Culture

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Fullerton, Calif. – Crittenton Services for Children and Families (CSCF) is proud to announce the agency’s nomination and selection as this year’s recipient of the Most Committed Partner award by both the CSUF Social Work Department and the CSUF Center for Internship & Community Engagement (CICE).

Each year CICE hosts its annual Community Engagement Awards as a way to highlight students, faculty and community partners in their efforts to strengthen the bonds of engagement that connect the University and the community. CICE’s main mission is to bring faculty, students, and community partners together to create high impact practices for student success.

“Our collaborative partnership with CSUF extends learning from the classroom to the community, giving students experiential learning opportunities that will build their skills, their resumes, and their ability to positively impact the world around them. It is truly a win-win,” said Joyce Capelle, Chief Executive Officer, CSCF, “We are honored to have worked alongside outstanding faculty and staff of CSUF for more than a decade, in order to provide students practical work experience while at the same time making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable youth.”

Under the “Stellar Support of Students” category the CSUF Department of Social Work nominated Crittenton as an organization that has made a difference in the career trajectory of students via mentorship.  As part of the non-profit’s mission, Crittenton, has made it a part of its strategic plan to make the idea of a “teaching institution” a reality and part of the overall agency culture. For its efforts in guiding and mentoring students, Crittenton has been recognized for going above and beyond its duties as an experiential learning host site.

In addition, as of 2015 both Crittenton and CSUF celebrate a 10-year anniversary of working together to serve vulnerable children and their families curtail the effects of child abuse, neglect, and trauma.

Since the inception of this evidenced-based field placement opportunity for social services, human services, and social work students have been able to take ample opportunity to earn academic units, licensing requirements and gain valuable work experience at a nationally accredited agency.

In fact, throughout this 10-year partnership period, roughly 121 undergraduates and 35 graduate students from CSUF have been given the opportunity to take part of a non-profit’s mission with a connection to a proud national child welfare legacy that goes back to 1883. Nearly 30 CSUF students have been hired as Crittenton employees via this partnership.

At the helm of this internship program collaboration with CSUF is executive team member and CSUF Alumna, Denise Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Crittenton Services.

Cunningham has been a strong advocate of community partnerships between Crittenton and higher education institutions, and has also served in the capacity of a mentor. Her commitment to student success is such that as of this year the CSUF Social Work Department has appointed her Chairperson of the department’s advisory council.

To build tomorrow’s workforce in the human services fields it takes the acquisition of knowledge in the classroom in tandem with developing skill-sets in the community. Crittenton’s partnership with CSUF is an excellent example of this collaborative approach to developing effective practitioners and future change agents.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond: From Social Worker to Lawmaker

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California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D)

You only need to take a look at the committees California Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D) requested to be on in order to get a sense of his top priorities.  When he took office in January, he sought to contribute on Education, Health, Human Services, and the Select Committee on Homelessness.

“That’s exactly where I would expect him to be, knowing him,” said Carroll Schroeder, executive director of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.

After a couple of decades working with nonprofits serving children and youth, as well as stints on the West Contra Costa County school board and the Richmond City Council, Thurmond says that in his new role as Assemblymember for District 15, he is “advocating for those who have the greatest needs.”

“I’m here for the least of us,” he told an audience at a Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California meeting on a recent Wednesday in Sacramento.

In his first months in office, Thurmond has proposed legislation to establish school-based mental health services and to address chronic absenteeism of children in grades K-3.

He is a bright star for children’s advocates and the service providers he worked alongside, most recently as senior director of community and government relations at Lincoln Child Center in Oakland.

Thurmond has emerged as a leader for the youth services field in what some youth advocates in California see as an era of austerity and erosion of the social safety net under Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown.

“There’s been a disinvestment in children’s services,” says Patrick Gardner, executive director of the Young Minds Advocacy Project. “During the recession, people assumed children were doing all right and there were other areas that needed more attention, and I think the result has been that children have suffered…We need a champion for children, and I think Tony has both the background and the heart to do it.”

Thurmond, who chairs the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, said he supports the Continuum of Care Reform Plan (CCR) developed over the past three years by the California Department of Social Services, providers, and advocates.

“The result will be better outcomes for kids,” Thurmond said.

The CCR report presented by CDSS to the legislature in January outlines 19 recommendations for transforming the delivery of child welfare services, including the establishment of a Core Practice Model to create consistency throughout the state.

“I came this close to being in foster care,” he said, holding his finger and thumb nearly together. After his mother died when he was six, he was sent to Philadelphia to live with a cousin he’d never met. “It was kinship care but we didn’t call it that back then.”

After getting his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University, Thurmond got his first job as a social worker in Philadelphia.  “All I ever wanted to do was be a helping professional.”

But that first job seemed to him like putting a “Band-aid” on bigger underlying issues facing the clients he served, such as long-term poverty, substance abuse, and lack of access to education.

“I wanted to learn how to work to change systems,” he said, so he completed dual Masters Degrees in Law and Social Policy and Social Work at Bryn Mawr College.

At a recent briefing in Sacramento held by the California Program on Access to Care (CPAC) at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, Thurmond expressed his support for the restoration of cuts to MediCal benefits and rates. He described his proposed Assembly Bill 1025, which would establish school-based mental health programs that would largely be funded by MediCal.

AB 1025 would establish 30 pilot programs providing school-based mental health services throughout the state. The legislation calls for mental health support to be offered in schools to students who have experienced trauma or other challenges.

Naming education his highest priority, Thurmond has also proposed AB 1014, a truancy prevention bill to address chronic absenteeism for kids in grades K-3 by funding outreach workers who would do home visits and work with families to address whatever is keeping children from going to school.

“Education is my top issue,” he said. “We want to help those kids get back in school so they learn to read by third grade so they don’t drop out and enter the juvenile justice system.”

“From my perspective based on my experience at Lincoln Child Center, home visiting is one of the most effective ways to get kids back in school.”

Reductions to the state’s safety net are a continuing concern for Thurmond. In his remarks to CPAC, he noted that despite acknowledging recent improvements to the state’s fiscal situation, Governor Brown “has talked as a consistent theme about our need to prepare for the future and to save money.”

“We all know,” said Thurmond, “that we have been for the last decade dealing with the great recession and tough cuts…and tightening our belts.”

He recalled the night in 2008 when he was sworn in as a member of the school board.  Despite his “excitement to help kids,” the first decision he was called upon to make just moments after being sworn in was “a vote to close ten schools because the state budget was so bad.”

“And that has been the climate and the culture,” he added, “in every single sector including our health safety net and our social services safety net. Now is the time to make restorations.”

“Everybody’s telling us what can’t be done, and that’s been the narrative for way too long,” Thurmond said in the Planned Parenthood meeting. “What is the cost we pay if we don’t take this action?”

Noting his choice of committees, not the most sought after by new members, Thurmond said simply, “I came up here to do work.”

Paving the Way for Change is #YSocialWork

B_R4dyFW8AAE9PsAs a social worker to my core, I love this year’s theme for Social Work Month, “Social Work Paves the Way for Change” which is why most of us became social workers in the first place. We believe whole-heartedly in the ability of people to change.

As much as I entered this field to try and save the world, over the course of many years it has been incredibly humbling to learn that it is the broken and lost who have provided the inspiration and motivation to continue to serve. In fact, my most precious education and understanding of humanity have been supplied by the countless children, families, elderly, and foster and adoptive parents I have been blessed to know.

In my role, I have the privilege of meeting so many amazing social workers. Each and every one of them continues to take on extremely stressful situations, and dedicate more hours in a day than most people know to protect children and adults and strengthen families. Their work is driven by a mission and commitment that is very much appreciated by those they serve.

Whether it is offering a comforting hug to a hurting child, or simply holding the hand of a 90-year old great-grandmother to let her know that she’s not been forgotten, social workers keep the fabric of our society held together. As a result of their willingness to do this, they serve as the foundation for change.

As a tribute to these remarkable individuals, I wanted to share words from a few of those caseworkers and social workers about why they chose social work, and what keeps them motivated to inspire change, no matter how small, every day.

#YSocialWork - Laura Hughes

#YSocialWork - Kristen Hamilton

If you want to be even more inspired, check out a great Social Work Month social media campaign from Social Work Helper, #YSocialWork, encouraging social workers to use social media to explain why social work matters. Visit the Social Work Helper website to download and print out a campaign sign to write your message. Then post your #YSocialWork message to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram with the #YSocialWork hashtag.

Or, simply take the time to let the social workers in your community know how much they are appreciated.

Happy Social Work Month!

How to Work with Multiple Generations and Technology in Human Services

Working with multiple generations in any field can be challenging, and human services is no exception. Most challenging can be helping all employees – from directors to caseworkers – utilize technology in human services when workers have very different comfort levels using systems like case management systems, electronic document management software in the office or even tablets in the field.

comicsRight now, four generations of workers comprise the workforce:

  • Veterans, sometimes called The Silent Generation
  • Baby Boomers
  • Generation X
  • Millennials, sometimes called Generation Y

Speaking in stereotypes, younger workers, Gen X and Millennials, are technically savvy and rely heavily on technology in their day-to-day life. This transcends to work. Younger workers, who comprise 45% of the workforce, view using mobile devices in meetings to capture notes or quickly access the Internet to find information as an advantage.

On the flip side, older generations, Baby Boomers and Veterans, may find using technology in meetings to be rude or distracting because they prefer less technology-driven interactions through in-person meetings or phone calls. They tend to be less literate in technology than their younger counterparts, but have an interest in learning more.

What does this means for social services agencies?

Agencies need to keep the generational differences in learning and communication in mind when implementing new technology. Here are key strategies to help make the transition smooth.

Build on the skills of each generation to benefit the whole team

Here’s an example. A social services agency is establishing a new electronic document management system. Workers from older generations can excel on the mechanics of a new project. Veterans can provide expertise of business processes and metrics from years of experience. Baby Boomers are well positioned to serve as the project manager or coordinator because of a strong network of contacts and good face-to-face communication skills.

In dealing with younger workers, Gen Xers and Millennials make good pilot teams to try new technologies because they are tech savvy and eager to learn. They can then serve as coaches and mentors for the older generations, who are often afraid they will break technology or use it incorrectly.

By leveraging the skill set of each generation, everyone has a distinct role and feels like they are part of the team, which greatly improves the likelihood a technology project will succeed.

Train employees on new technology based on each generation’s learning style

The younger generations tend to have shorter attention spans and often prefer verbal and hands-on training to reading documents, whereas older generations prefer to read documentation and take time to internalize new processes.

The key here is to remember no one-size training will ever fit all. Technology training needs to accommodate a variety of different learning styles.

For Millennials and Gen Xers, consider short video tutorials; specific, bulleted how-to documents; and interactive, technology-based training to allow workers to jump right in.

Veterans and Baby Boomers may benefit from longer, written explanations of the new system before formal training. They may favor more traditional training methods, such as PowerPoint presentations, than their younger counterparts. These generations may also benefit from post-training tutorials to review new skills since they may not pick up on technology quite as quickly.

Keep in mind that these strategies are based on generalizations about millions of people who happened to be born during the same timeframe. Some Millennials may be petrified of trying something new like taking a tablet on a home visit, while a Baby Boomer might think writing case notes in a yellow legal pad is as outdated as a Sock Hop.

Regardless of their generation, workers who receive information, training, and support from human services agencies through a variety of communication methods will excel when using new technology.

96 Percent of Social Workers Want Mobile Technology

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How important is mobile technology in social work? We wanted to learn more so we surveyed members of the National Association of Social Workers and asked two questions, “Do you think mobile technology would help you do your job?” and, “Is mobile technology for social workers a priority for your organization?” The results are in and we found that they confirm our belief in the important role that technology can play in a social worker’s life.

An overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) answered yes to the question, “Do you think mobile technology would help you do your job?” On the flip side, only 55% think that mobile technology is a priority in their organization. This means that while many social workers or supervisors think mobile technology would help social workers perform their jobs, they don’t think their organization is focused on providing the tools they need. This type of conflicting ideology can impact morale and ultimately lead to social worker burnout.

   

We firmly believe that mobile tools can help adult and child protective services (CPS) social workers overcome everyday hurdles like these:

1. Time Spent on Paperwork

As one CPS supervisor put it, “You probably spend one-third of your time with families, and two-thirds of your time documenting everything that you’ve done.” Social workers become resigned to losing valuable time trying to work around paper-based processes, having to track down and locate paper files.

2. Accessing Information in the Field

In 2012, worldwide mobile access reached 87%. Between 2011 and 2016, mobile data traffic is expected to grow by 18%. Despite hauling stacks of information with them into the field, sometimes social workers find themselves without the necessary forms or information. Accessibility is not only possible for social workers, it’s critical.

3. Limited Time with Families and Children

CPS caseloads across the country are increasing, but the number of social workers is not. Naturally this leads to spending less time with families and children. This places a heavy burden on agencies and workers, putting families in crisis at even higher risk.

4. Burnout

Social workers are at high risk of burnout and low job satisfaction. Turnover and burnout, while obviously disturbing for social workers, also places a tremendous burden on agencies and the families they serve. Costs of staff turnover are estimated to be between 1/3 and 2/3 of the worker’s annual salary.

5. Data Collection and Quality

The data collection processes and systems created at the state level are designed to collect data in order to meet important state and federal reporting requirements. This often doesn’t sync up with the way social workers work. Because of this, social workers find themselves asking clients to repeat information, which can negatively impact productivity.

We’ve seen that mobile technology designed for social workers can enhance the quality of social work and ultimately give social workers more time to spend with families, which is why social workers became social workers in the first place.

To learn more about how mobile technology can help social workers overcome five common hurdles, download our business brief, 5 Hurdles Blocking Social Worker Productivity and How to Overcome Them.

What About Repeat Child Protection Families?

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A study just released in the United Kingdom, talks about repeat families within the child welfare system. Researchers from Manchester and Brunel Universities discovered, upon reviewing court records, that 7.143 mothers were involved in repeat child protection cases involving 22, 790 children. Those who work the front lines of child protection will feel a certain familiarity to the theme. There are clearly some families where problems are so entrenched that interventions are almost inevitable.

How then to stop the repeating cycle? This is very tricky indeed. Early intervention services may be an important step helping mothers at high risk of losing their babies to parent differently. This would require identifying these mothers during pregnancy and offering parenting education. It would have to be education that differs from the norm for sure. It would need to help mothers understand high risk behaviors in pregnancy and once the child is born. It would also have to support mothers in changing behaviors. This might well work with mothers who are at least in the contemplative stage of change where there is some recognition that something needs to be different.

Such an intensive approach could be seen as costly but would be quite inexpensive when compared to the costs of bringing a child into care. More controversial approaches consider talking with these high-risk mothers about adoption upon birth. This places the mother in quite a difficult corner. There are many ethical problems with this. Perhaps the most important is that child protection or health authorities are really giving the mother a no-win choice – give the baby up for adoption or risk the child being apprehended by child protection.

Even further up the ladder of ethical challenges is trying to convince high-risk mothers to not get pregnant again. This looks at contraception alternatives that can range from birth control pills through to sterilization. It seems quite fair to talk about taking birth control pills or ensuring the use of a condom but sterilization is a permanent choice. Whichever approach, the message is clear – you are not a competent parent so don’t get pregnant again. If you do, we will take the baby.

There seems a fine line between coaching a high-risk parent and essentially using the power of child protection to impose a behavior. This is a complex ethical debate in our society. The possibilities of abuse of power are obvious because it has happened before. The recent film Philomena starring Judy Dench tells one such story based on the infamous Magdelene laundry stories in Ireland. The eugenics movement in North America from around the 1920’s and on up to the 1970’s would be further examples.

On the other hand, what is the benefit to the mother and her children to have pregnancies followed by repeat apprehensions of children? There are things that we need to do to stop the flow of repeat interventions from the same families. Surely education on family planning, coaching during pregnancy and intensive supports following birth seems like obvious steps. Yet, for parents who remain unwilling to change, these efforts are unlikely to succeed. Is repeat apprehension of children our only other option?

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Letter to the Aspiring Social Worker

I don’t claim to know about all things social work, but I have learned some life lessons along the way that have shaped who I am, my faith, and my desire to help others. Do we choose this profession or does it choose us? I believe that everyone who enters the social work profession do so because of something in their background that enrages that desire to change injustices, speak up for those without a voice, and/or inject compassion into an otherwise heartless society.

As I reflect on my journey, there are several things I couldn’t have moved forward without, and there are several changes older me wish I had the insight to make. For the aspiring social worker and the new social worker, I will be sharing throughout this post several mantras that I have used to guide my path over the years. It’s when I ignored my compass that I found myself learning another life lesson. Here are a few of the most important ones.

Lesson One-“If you want to know where you are going, look at your friends”

No matter if you are 13 years old or 45 years old, this mantra should guide you for the rest of your life. This mantra is powerful because it will determine the most powerful influences and the direction of your life for the rest of your life. You can substitute friends for peers, coworkers, or membership groups. Who you choose to align yourself with will influence your belief system, your work ethics, your ideas, and your actions. It will affect your ability to collaborate, share ideas, and information especially when there is no personal benefit for yourself.

Lesson Two- “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”

Define the line that you won’t cross. Find your moral compass. Identify the part of you that draws you to this profession. What are you most passionate about? AND Who do you feel the most compassion for? DETERMINE: What are you willing to do to advance or get ahead? What are you willing to ignore or overlook? Who has value in this society according to your standards? Are those who are suffering and poor to blame for their own problems? No Social Worker is immune from having prejudices and biases against individuals or groups of people. The failure to acknowledge this human deficiency will determine whether you are an advocate or an oppressor.

Lesson Three-“When two or more stand together and agree”

Social Work is not like running track,  playing tennis, or riding equestrian. Social Work is not an individual sport. Whether you choose to go into private practice, Child Welfare, health care, or any other area of practice, you must remain connected to other like minded individuals working together and with others.  I believe the reason why so many social workers experience burnout is because it feels like a solo fight against a system that’s to big to change.  Our separation and isolation from other professions begin in college. When do you interact with education majors, sociology, public health, criminal justice and so forth. Guess what? You are going to have to interact with other professions in the workforce! Why not start now while you are in college? Start a community service project and invite the other student groups from different majors to participate.

Why should social work students take the lead? ANSWER: The Social Work profession is the only profession that is designed to help people improve the quality of their lives on a biological, social, and psychological perspective. Give this some thought…..Let that statement marinate.

In physics, pushing up against a wall that does not move fails to meet the definition of work. If the wall does not move, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend pushing because no distance can be measured.  Instead of spending our time pushing up against walls, let’s align ourselves with people who can work with us to take the wall down brick by brick or at least enough to go around it.

Also View:
Resources for Students Considering a Career in Social Work

Proof Educational Outcomes for the Poor Can’t be Improved without Social Workers

I am an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. I’ve been teaching for seven years. I’m passionate about helping adult immigrants learn the English language. I enjoy learning new cultures and languages. During my experience as a teacher, I’ve had students face difficult circumstances, some of which required referrals for housing, healthcare, legal counsel, or a chance to have their voices heard. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to their stories, provide comfort in their time of need, and be their ear.

The many “thank you” messages I received were moving and humbling. I realized that there is a strong connection between the teaching profession and social work. The problems some of my students had to deal with eventually interfered with their ability to learn English. As a teacher, I was only allowed to teach. To me, that wasn’t enough to help my students; I wanted to do more. I began taking training classes relating to social work.

I received a Family Development credential learning how to empower families in need to become self-reliant. Although I already had an Associate’s degree and a Bachelor’s in English, I went back to school and graduated with an Associate’s in Human Services degree. I’ve taken trainings on case management and read several books about the social work field. I became a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and I am now applying to graduate school for an MSW.

Also, I participate in hosted debates on Twitter regarding issues in the social work field. I’m a determined person, and I believe I can still have a career as a teacher and be a social worker as well. My hope is to continue educating and helping people who live in underserved communities. I have a big heart and want to do my part in making a difference in this world. Someday I hope to have that chance.

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