Child Welfare Services/Case Management System (CWS/CMS)
The California Department of Social Services , Children and Family Services Division , is responsible for developing and overseeing a vast array of programs and services for California at-risk children and families, providing a statewide system for out-of-home care providers, appropriating services to children in out-of-home care, and facilitating adoptions for children who need permanent homes. California's program for child protection is comprised of a number of services and interventions called Child Welfare Services (CWS). These services are organized into programs which together, form a continuum of efforts aimed at safeguarding the well-being of children and adults in ways that strengthen and preserve families, encourage personal responsibility, and foster independence. Generally, the continuum can be broken down into four broad categories:
- Programs and Services intended to prevent abuse or strengthen families;
- Programs and Services intended to remedy the effects of abuse or neglect (e.g., emergency response, family maintenance and family reunification;
- Programs and Services that provide for the out-of-home care of children (e.g. Foster Care and Relative Home Placements);
- Programs and Services that provide for the permanent removal of children from abusive homes (e.g. Adoptions, legal guardianship, Kinship Care).
California's child welfare services programs are administered by the 58 individual counties. This means that each county organizes and operates its own program of child protection based on local needs while complying with state and federal regulations. Counties are the primary governmental entities that interact with children and families when addressing issues of child abuse and neglect. Counties, either directly or through providers, are responsible for obtaining or providing the interventions and applicable services to protect the well being of children and to help families address issues of child abuse and neglect. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) monitors and provides support in the counties efforts to best serve children and families. The State supports counties through program regulatory oversight and administration and the development of program policy and statute. The CDSS Children and Family Services Division (CFSD) provides a broad spectrum of county child welfare services support activities. CFSD secures federal funding to support child welfare services programs; conducts research and develops new programs and services; provides oversight and evaluation of local and statewide demonstration projects; provides statewide "best practices" training for social workers; coordinates scholarships for social work students; and helps formulate post-secondary social services curriculums. CDSS also provides some direct services such as adoptions placements.
In 1989, SB 370 (Chapter 1294, Statutes of 1989) authorized the development and implementation of a statewide computer system to automate the case management, services planning, and information gathering functions of child welfare services. CWS/CMS is California’s version of the federal Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS).
The provisions of SB 370 laid out specific goals in the development of a statewide child welfare system. In accordance with the goals of SB 370, CWS/CMS has been designed to:
- Provide Child Welfare Services (CWS) workers with immediate access to child, family and case-specific information in order to make appropriate and timely case decisions;
- Provide CWS workers with current and accurate information to effectively and efficiently manage their caseloads and take appropriate and timely case management actions;
- Provide State and County administrators with the information needed to administer programs and monitor and evaluate the achievement of program goals and objectives;
- Provide State and County CWS agencies with a common database and definition of information from which to evaluate CWS; and
- Consolidate the collection and reporting of information for CWS programs pursuant to State and federal requirements.
At the time SB 370 was enacted, there was no centralized statewide system that allowed State or county child welfare workers to share information. Each county had its own locally designed method of managing cases which ranged from manual, paper-file systems to computer-based systems. The different systems made information sharing inefficient and time-consuming.
The CWS/CMS is a personal computer (PC)-based, Windows application that links all 58 counties and the State to a common database. The CWS/CMS is an automated, online client management database that tracks each case from initial contact through termination of services.
The CWS/CMS is one of the largest Windows-based systems. CWS/CMS is designed so caseworkers can move through the application, performing work in the sequence that is most appropriate. The application allows caseworkers to open and track cases through the components of the CWS/CMS program. The system assists caseworkers in recording client demographics, contacts, services delivered, and placement information. The system also enables case workers to record and update assessments, create and maintain case plans, and manage the placement of children in the appropriate foster homes or facilities. The system will generate and manage many forms associated with a client or case. The application also collects data for the purposes of State, county, and federal reporting.
The CWS/CMS has eleven functional components designed to reflect the processes employed by child welfare workers in investigating, servicing and managing a child welfare case. Combined, these eleven components automate the many phases and programmatic functions of CWS. The eleven components and their functions are as follows:
- Intake -- referral screening, investigation and cross reporting.
- Client Information -- recording and accessing information on clients;
- Service Delivery -- recording of services delivered to clients;
- Case Management -- development of case plans, monitoring service delivery, progress assessment;
- Placement -- placement management and matching of children to placement alternatives;
- Court Processing -- hearing preparation, filing of petitions, generating subpoenas, citations, notices, recording court actions;
- Caseload -- assignment and transfer of cases;
- Resource Management -- information on resources available for CWS (services providers, county staff resources, etc.)
- Program Management -- caseload, county, program-level information for program management purposes;
- Adoptions -- recording of information for reporting purposes; and
- Licensing -- information on licensees used in placement decisions.
Each functional component captures information and provides automated tools for case management, service provision, and program management or documenting case history.
An Oversight Committee governs the CWS/CMS. The CWS/CMS Oversight Committee is comprised of representatives from the following organizations: eight members selected by the President of the County Welfare Director's Association (CWDA), with the concurrence of the CWDA Executive Committee; the Office of Systems Integration (OSI) CWS/CMS Project Manager; the OSI CWS/CMS County Liaison; and the Deputy Director for CDSS Children and Family Services Division (Chair). The Oversight Committee provides policy direction and a Strategic Plan for the continuing development and operation of CWS/CMS to ensure the system supports the achievement of statutory CWS program goals. The CWS/CMS Oversight Committee has put in place methods of communicating decisions, upcoming changes and status reports to the stakeholders throughout the State. The goal is to continue the successful utilization of CWS/CMS to ensure the safety, permanence and well-being of children.
In August of 1997, the CDSS formed the CMS Support Branch within the Children and Family Services Division in an effort to bring a programmatic and policy perspective to bear on the resolution of issues that arose as CWS/CMS was implemented and became operational. The CMS Support Branch works in concert with the OSI project team and the project vendor in resolving issues and concerns with CWS/CMS. The CMS Support Branch has assumed responsibility for many issues with significant policy or program impact requiring extensive analysis and subsequent policy interpretation or change.
The CWS/CMS will continue to be a "living tool" in a constant state of improvement to accommodate: (1) mandated statutory and regulatory changes, (2) promising program and services practices, and (3) needs of the counties so they can provide for the children and families they serve. As policies, regulations and/or county business practices change and improve, the Application will need to change and improve as well.