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Audit finds usability issues with DHS child welfare info system

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Agency says improvements are in the works

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Oregon Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare Information System, otherwise known as OR-Kids, is generally functional for case management, according to an audit released Wednesday by Secretary of State Bev Clarno. However, auditors found the system hampered caseworkers’ efficiency due to usability issues, which put data quality at risk.

The findings are outlined in the report entitled: “Oregon’s Child Welfare Information System Is Adequate for Case Management, but Enhancements Are Needed to Improve Usability.”

DHS uses OR-Kids to track Child Welfare casework, including information about children and families who receive services.

Auditors found that, while the system provides the basic functionality required for this work, usability challenges make it difficult and time-consuming to find important information about cases. Moreover, these usability concerns increase the risk that data will not be completely or accurately captured in the system.

“Keeping kids safe is the primary concern of Child Welfare in Oregon DHS and the caseworkers need the tools to be able to carry out that objective,” Clarno said. “Having systems that are difficult to use and decrease efficiencies do not help DHS put children first.”

Read the full audit on the Secretary of State website (https://sos.oregon.gov/audits/Pages/default.aspx).

The report concludes that OR-KIDS performs its primary functions as a case management tool and data hub, but that improvements in usability, data quality management and training are needed.

“We appreciate the report and its acknowledgement of the work that is ongoing to improve the efficiency and usability of the OR-KIDS system,” said Rebecca Jones Gaston, director of the Oregon Child Welfare Program. “As we transform our Child Welfare system into one focused on prevention, safety and improving outcomes for children and families, data integrity and accessibility will continue to be a top priority.”

In addition to usability enhancements, DHS said it is in the beginning phases of a project to make significant changes to OR-KIDS to bring it into alignment with new federal standards for child welfare information systems. The report also recommends that DHS assign a qualified project manager to oversee this project.

Of the six recommendations made in the report, three of them are already in progress, with plans to be implemented in 2020. The remaining three recommendations will be fully implemented in 2021, DHS said.

OR-KIDS is the system of record for Oregon’s Child Welfare Program. It is the case management tool and central data hub that is used to document all case activities and points of contact with the child welfare system, including reports of child abuse or neglect.

On Dec. 31, 2019 there were 6,974 children in foster care.

In December 2019 there were 6,179 screened reports of abuse or neglect that were documented in OR-KIDS and either closed at screening or assigned for assessment.

Report child abuse to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).

News / Oregon-Northwest

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