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MDHHS overhauling tracking of state’s child welfare system

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is taking the first major step in overhauling its technology to better serve children and families and provide reliable data…

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is taking the first major step in overhauling its technology to better serve children and families and provide reliable data to track the performance of the state’s child welfare system.

The department recently announced it is seeking bids for the first phase of replacing its child welfare information system with a more modern one by issuing a request for proposal.

“The dedicated state employees who investigate child abuse and neglect allegations and help youth in foster care and juvenile justice facilities need a more reliable information technology system that’s easier to navigate so they can spend more time with children and families,” said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “MDHHS and our partners also need the best data we can get so that we can better protect the safety and well-being of children, serve families and provide permanent homes for kids who are under the state’s care and supervision. The new information system we will be developing will meet those important needs.”

The MDHHS will replace the current Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System – commonly known as MiSACWIS – in a phased approach. As the existing system is replaced incrementally one piece at a time, the other portions of MiSACWIS will continue to be used.

The department is now seeking bids for replacing the first piece of the system – which is for foster home licensing activity. The module is tentatively scheduled to be completed in late 2020. Officials expect other modules that cover the remaining parts of child welfare programming to be completed within three to five years.

MiSACWIS, which launched in 2014, has been difficult for child welfare staff to use and has not been able to provide all the data that federal court monitors need for their oversight of Michigan’s child welfare system.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has been monitoring the state’s child welfare system since 2008 under settlement of a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Children’s Rights.

To address the issues with MiSACWIS, MDHHS has been working with a team of consultants who have successful track records of fixing technology systems at the federal and state levels.

That team has recommended the state replace the current system with a phased implementation based upon a Platform-as-a-Service, which would rely at its foundation on technology that is kept in working order for numerous clients.

The modular approach is consistent with modern best practice for technology development, and the reliance on Platform-as-a-Service will increase the reliability of the system while reducing costs for development and operations.

“Thanks to our staff’s incredible efforts, we are on our way to dramatically strengthening our child welfare system,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “But a clunky and inefficient IT system stands in the way, costing caseworkers thousands of hours each year. The winner of this request for proposal will be our partner in a new way that unleashes our caseworkers’ full potential.  I can’t think of a more exciting way for technology to be a force for good.”  

Federally funded child welfare systems have been required to collect and submit data through state SACWIS systems. The federal government is now requiring states to move to more modern systems known as Comprehensive Child Welfare Information Systems in order to receive full federal funding. New requirements are intended to allow for greater flexibility and support the use of improved technology to better support child welfare practice.

MDHHS does not yet have a cost estimate for the new child welfare information system. Approximately 50 percent of the cost of the new system will be paid for with federal dollars.

Bidders can submit a proposal on the state of Michigan vendor self-service site. Bidders can submit questions until 3 p.m. Jan. 6. Answers will be posted by Jan. 16. Proposals must be submitted no later than 3 p.m. Jan. 31.



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