The ever-increasing use of technology in child welfare practice can create opportunities to
identify and monitor disparity and disproportionality in a timely way. When constructing technology
systems, agency leaders must balance the promises of technology with the challenges it presents.
The key is to design systems that capture the necessary, relevant information to address both more
Data elements should include information on race, ethnicity, and country of origin, health,
existence of a disability, language, education levels and services. When appropriately linked, such
data elements can measure disparities and disproportionality and measure the effectiveness of
agency initiatives that are directed to eliminate disparities and reduce disproportionality.
Software should be able to aggregate the information, and correlate it with caseworkers’ decisions
about services such as placements, referrals for services, the use of community resources and
in-home services. In addition, the software should be capable of capturing trends and measuring the
impact of programs on disproportionality and disparities.
To enable technology staff to develop effective systems, agency staff, stakeholders and the
children, youth and families served should be engaged in technology development planning, as
appropriate and needed. When the agency is working with contract service providers and community
based organizations on disproportionality and disparities, the agency should endeavor to make
technology accessible and opportunity to participate equally available to these partners. Not only
should these partners know what data are needed and how to collect it, where appropriate, the
agency should provide technical assistance and/or access to the technology equipment. Analysis is
more successful if all entities involved collect the same information, share it expeditiously, then
recognize and address the issue or issues, collaboratively.
Technology that connects child welfare systems of care—physical, mental, and dental health,
education, juvenile justice, child care, etc.— makes more information available to more people and
provides different ways to look at the same data. Each entity can see where it fits and how they
contribute to the overall picture. Effective technology helps people from different systems build
relationships and work together to address the complex issues of disparities and disproportionality
at all levels and promotes integrated solutions.
Agencies must be versatile and flexible in the tools that are chosen. Hardware requirements may
include operating systems in more than one language. Software needs may consist of language
translators, voice recognition and handwriting transcription. Employee and partner skill
development and training should be provided to ensure equal opportunity to all. In addition, modern
technology is proving to be an effective way for workers to communicate with children, youth and
families served. But everyone may not have consistent, easy access to technology such as e-mail.
Some may not be comfortable using social networking methods, finding it difficult to operate or a
threat to their privacy. The choices that agencies, children, youth and families make to
communicate with one another require ongoing evaluation to ensure that the technology used is
effective, accessible and
acceptable (e.g. not everyone speaks English).