WRMA SACWIS MapClick to see a map showing WRMA's SACWIS experience by state
For many years, concerns were raised about the lack of information available on children in foster care and on their families. To address some of these concerns, Congress amended Title IV-E of the Social Security Act in 1986 by adding Section 479, which required the federal government to institute a foster care and adoption data collection system. The requirements for this system were defined over several years through the combined efforts of federal staff and state advisory boards. The resulting Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) set reporting requirements for the states regarding children in foster care and/or adoption. It was recognized, however, that many States did not possess child welfare information systems that could meet the reporting requirements set forth by Section 479 and that the overall state of automation in the child welfare field was such that immediate efforts were necessary to bring the benefits of modern technology to the field.
In response to this need, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA 93) provided enhanced Federal Financial Participation (FFP) at a 75 percent rate for statewide automated child welfare information systems to carry out the states' programs under Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. These systems are intended to be comprehensive child welfare information systems that incorporate the entire spectrum of child welfare, family preservation and family support services, as well as being able to meet AFCARS requirements and the voluntary reporting specifications of the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). The FFP was subsequently reduced to a 50 percent rate.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF), through its Office of Information Systems Management, Division of State System Approval supported this effort by contracting with WRMA and Mid-America Consulting Group (MCG) to conduct the planning, design, development, and implementation of a national prototype Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). That contract marked WRMA's initial work in the SACWIS arena.
While all of the tasks performed by WRMA and MCG for the national SACWIS prototype project are of relevance to any new state SACWIS project, there were a half dozen tasks associated with the Base period that are discussed in additional detail in the following section.
The specific objectives of the SACWIS Prototype Development and Technical Assistance Project were to 1) review and synthesize relevant models of child welfare information systems, as well as the requirements of other federal reporting systems such as the AFCARS and the NCANDS, in order to develop a detailed understanding of the state-of-the-art of child welfare information systems; 2) establish a prototype work group of officials from federal agencies and twelve states to develop consensus regarding the functional and information requirements of a comprehensive child welfare information system; 3) design, develop, document, and assist with implementation of a comprehensive child welfare information system prototype that met the SACWIS, AFCARS and NCANDS requirements; and 4) provide technical assistance to all states regarding appropriate SACWIS design, development and implementation activities.
The project consisted of two phases - the Base and Option periods. The Base period of the national SACWIS prototype project produced several documentation and design deliverables of value to the field in its efforts to bring the nation's child welfare information systems up to modern standards. During this period, WRMA developed the SACWIS Technical Assistance Strategy and identified and solicited states for membership in the SACWIS Technical Advisory Group. WRMA also surveyed several state-level systems that were viewed as leaders in the field, analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each system, and developed an integrated data set that summarized the data reporting requirements of several major federal programs as they related to child welfare and child welfare information system design. Finally, WRMA developed a comprehensive project plan for the development of the prototype model and the provision of on-going technical assistance, conducted regional and national meetings with state and federal officials, and developed the base SACWIS functional requirements and the SACWIS Conceptual Design.
First, the WRMA review of state-level systems included the review of state child welfare information systems that were under development in seven states: California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas. Each of these States was considered to be representative of state-of-the-art child welfare information systems development, and each of the under-development systems became that state's official SACWIS system. The product of this review was a candidate list for federal approval of the informational and functional requirements for SACWIS.
Second, the states represented on the SACWIS Technical Advisory Group included Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin, and Utah. Members of this group provided guidance and technical assistance to WRMA staff during all phases of the national SACWIS prototype project. They also helped to draft the ACF SACWIS Interim Final Rule that provided federal direction to the states on the informational and functional requirements that their SACWIS systems would need to address.
In addition to WRMA's role in the identification of the informational and functional requirements outlined in the Interim Final Rule, WRMA refined and expanded the requirements and submitted to ACF for publication what eventually became the Federal SACWIS Functional Requirements. The SACWIS Functional Requirements document prepared by WRMA was intended for the use of system designers, program administrators and technical personnel involved in the planning, design, development and/or implementation of automated child welfare information systems at the state level. This document was based on existing and subsequent federal legislation, the Federal SACWIS Rules and Regulations, and the analysis of the systems identified above. The SACWIS Functional Requirements document showed both the mandated regulatory requirements and the broad areas of functionality addressed by the regulatory requirements. Having defined the functional requirements for a SACWIS system, WRMA was then tasked by ACF with the development of an Integrated Data Set that would identify, describe, and define the data elements that were of importance to a state SACWIS developmental effort. The Integrated Data Set addressed the AFCARS and NCANDS data requirements and other data needs of a state SACWIS. In addition to defining specific data elements of relevance to SACWIS, the Integrated Data Set document showed how these data elements could be used to support specific system functionality.
During the Base period, WRMA provided technical assistance to many states in the basic design tenets of an integrated child welfare information system and in understanding the related federal requirements that governed the receipt of federal matching funds. Alaska, California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and South Dakota, were states who received extensive technical assistance from WRMA on SACWIS design and development issues. Issues addressed during this period of the project included the analysis and design of automated support for risk assessment, the Child Protective Services (CPS) intake and clearance process, substitute care tracking (and related AFCARS issues), multi-tier dispositional processes within the CPS functions, adoption tracking and related confidentiality issues, alerts and ticklers, notices, integrated word processing, and other office automation tools.
WRMA also developed a working prototype of the model system during the Base period. The prototype was used as an educational tool for technical assistance to the states and as a prompt for feedback from experts in the child welfare field as to the design's ability to address the many issues associated with system development in that arena. A national conference was conducted by ACF at the end of the Base period that included two days of training by WRMA and MCG to program and technical staff from all 50 states on SACWIS functionality and SACWIS design, development, and implementation issues.
The Option period of the national SACWIS prototype contract was let by the federal government after the products and activities performed during the Base period proved of value to the states and to the child welfare field in general. The Option period called for the development of a detailed system design for a workable, state-level client/server system that met all Federal and Technical Advisory Group requirements. The Option period also required the actual development of a working model of that system as well as continued technical assistance and publication of documentation and designs to assist the states and the system vendors in their SACWIS developmental efforts. A second national conference was conducted with all 50 states in attendance. WRMA presented the national SACWIS prototype at that conference and provided training on SACWIS design and implementation issues to the conference participants.