Penn’s Field Center to Unveil New Child-Welfare Technology at “One Child, Many Hands” Conference

PHILADELPHIA — The Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at the University of Pennsylvania is unveiling a prototype for its Information Portability Project during its fourth biennial “One Child, Many Hands: A Multidisciplinary Conference on Child Welfare,” Wednesday, June 8-10, at Penn’s Wharton School.

The Information Portability Project emerged from a partnership with Montgomery County, Pa., Stewards of Change, Microsoft Corp. and Motorola to develop and field test technology solutions in child welfare.  This interoperable, real-time technology system will link together all services within the county’s Department of Human Services, allowing caseworkers and their supervisors immediate access to critical information to improve the safety of abused and neglected children. 

To support this effort, Motorola and its partners designed hand-held devices to provide immediate, remote access to files and instant documentation, including the ability to take and upload photos and video from a caseworker’s home visit.  It will increase productivity and allow for better service coordination, along with seamless systems for prevention, treatment and recovery.  In addition, it includes a GPS-like system for tracking home visits and for increased safety for caseworkers.

“This new technology will revolutionize child welfare and our technology partners are demonstrating it during the ‘One Child, Many Hands’ conference on child welfare,” Debra Schilling Wolfe, the executive director for the Field Center, said.  “This new, cutting-edge approach will promote better decision making, encourage efficiency and offer support to caseworkers.  It could save children’s lives.”

Designed by Stewards of Change with technical support from the Microsoft and Motorola, this first-of-its-kind Web-based system is being piloted in Montgomery County.  Project collaborators hope to eventually replicate it in other Pennsylvania counties.

Penn’s Field Center, a collaboration among the Penn schools of Social Policy & Practice, Law and Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, spent three years researching the project.

The Hite Foundation, in memory of Sybil E. Hite, provided the funding for the initial research on the project to identify the need for this kind of technological improvement, as well as for hosting a national summit on information technology usage in child welfare.  Many ideas emerged from the 2007 Child Welfare Summit on Information Technology, including this pilot program.

Named in honor of Joseph and Marie Field, its founding benefactors, the Field Center is the only university-based center for child welfare in the nation which integrates the fields of social work, law and medicine to promote the well-being of abused and neglected children and those at risk of maltreatment.