Carlos Torres, Division Chief of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, praises the usability of the agency’s new child services system.

Apr 17 2024

State and Local Agencies Improve Child Services Intake and Outreach Communications

Governments boost contact centers to assist the most vulnerable.

When the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sought to modernize its contact center, IT leaders took the opportunity to shift from an on-premises infrastructure to a cloud-based one.

“We literally are the entry point for teachers, for medical providers, for the public, for parents when they want to report child abuse or neglect. So, we can never crash,” says Division Chief Carlos Torres. “We need to be open 24/7/365 — period.”

DCFS is not alone. Nationwide, child services agencies are leveraging the cloud and other technologies to elevate service delivery and ensure efficient operations.

“Any use of technology to modernize the process is always going to be beneficial,” says Andrea Danes, EY global human services leader.

For families, technology can make services more readily available, while for state and local agencies, “it creates the opportunity for cost savings and efficiency,” she says.

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Los Angeles Child Services Now Has an Intuitive Interface

In Los Angeles, the Child Protection Hotline was receiving over 220,000 calls every year, straining the department’s aging, on-premises infrastructure.

“The legacy technology is just very finicky. I don’t know if it’s coincidental, but every time it would rain, we would have issues,” Torres says.

For the upgrade, DCFS opted to use Amazon Web Services and migrated to Amazon Connect, a simple-to-use omnichannel contact center. The new system helps to streamline contacts, making it easier for families to connect with needed services and improving the process for county workers.

“Our objective was to figure out how we could use technology to make life easier for the social workers, so they can make life better for the community. And we wanted to enable people to work remotely,” says John Booher, data scientist and cloud developer for Los Angeles County. “Moving to AWS made that a lot easier.”

The cloud solution ensured that workers could make the transition seamlessly.

“When you pick a system, you have to pick a system that is quick and simple. Amazon Connect resembles a smartphone: It’s very intuitive,” Torres says.

For IT, the cloud solution also closed the talent gap at a time when the county was struggling to find people who could maintain the legacy technology.

Now, “it’s all maintained on the backend by AWS, and we only handle the front end, setting up the call flows,” Booher says. “And the interface for doing that is a lot easier.”

Overall, the new system “has allowed us to be faster and more efficient, and everything is more centralized,” Torres says. “Before, our recordings were over here in this bucket, and our calls were over there. Now, everything’s in one place.”

READ: New Jersey CTO Chris Rein explains benefits of the cloud for state agencies.

MNBenefits Ensures a Smooth Experience for Developers

Minnesota recently stood up MNBenefits, an online benefits application where citizens can apply for benefits, including assistance with food, housing and childcare.

Using the previous online system, “it took people 40 minutes to an hour to fill out an application. It was in English only, and it also did not support mobile users,” says Rashed Ferdous, a division manager with Minnesota IT Services. “We wanted to address some of these issues.”

The team leveraged a combination of technologies to improve the situation.

“We are using cutting-edge cloud computing technologies from Microsoft Azure Cloud, including state-of-the-art cloud containers built on OpenShift. That has helped our development team to be very flexible,” Ferdous says. “They have an easy-to-use back-end infrastructure. They are able to handle traffic and identify issues better.”



Supported by Red Hat OpenShift on Azure, “we’re iteratively developing things using continuous feedback loop,” he says. “If users are on a page, we can get statistics on where they leave. Is there something on that page that we can tweak? That makes the user experience so much better.”

The team has used the upgraded tools to add a mobile-friendly interface and to simplify the application process. “The whole application was designed with the human-centered approach in mind,” Ferdous says.

All of this adds up to a much smoother end-user experience.

“We were able to reduce the time that it takes to fill out an application to less than 15 minutes,” Ferdous says. “Assuming we saved 30 minutes per application, that’s about 300 years of total time saved when we consider the total number of applications received so far.”

Connecticut Adopts Game-Changing Tech for Welfare Services

Meanwhile, Connecticut is in the process of standing up CT-KIND, a modernized child welfare system to replace its legacy system.

“The system we’re using now is built on technology that was first implemented in 1996. In technology terms, that is not just old, it’s really, really old,” says Eric Nixon, customer success and IT manager for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. “We want the ability to do improved decision-making, data sharing and data collection. The new system will allow us to enhance mobile access and will support a mobile workforce.”

The new system will also seamlessly connect a range of partners, including the state’s Department of Social Services, its Department of Education and researchers at the University of Connecticut, all of which support the child services effort.

220,000: The annual number of calls received by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services’ Child Protection Hotline


“The current system is disjointed in places, and workers end up having to re-enter the same data multiple times. In the new system, that data will come over automatically,” Nixon says. “The integrations will cut down dramatically on duplicate data entry.”

The new solution leverages Salesforce on AWS, and Nixon described the move to the cloud as a significant improvement. “You get FedRAMP security levels, which are necessary for the type of data that we have,” he says.

Overall, the new system will drive improvements for both families and county workers.

“For our workforce, the time savings will be tremendous, because people will no longer be need to be deskbound in order to do narrative entry or search for information,” says Michael Williams, deputy commissioner of operations for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. “This will give them immediate access to information that allows us to make better qualitative decisions about the lives of families and children.”

In the modern era, “information is key to assuring that families are getting what they need,” he says. “This is a game changer for us.”

Photography by Matthew Furman

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