Coordinated Information Management in Social Services Positively Impacts Families
United Family Services, a nonprofit agency that provides services for juvenile offenders and their families, implemented DocuWare Cloud to manage case files between five offices. Improved information security coupled with quick, easy access to information when needed has provided caseworkers more time to dedicate a higher quality of interaction with their clients. Productivity and accountability has also improved along with a lower stress-level for workers as they keep the goals of their organization in mind.
United Family Services (UFS) is a nonprofit organization that was established in 1991 in Arkansas to provide services for at-risk-youth, as well as juvenile offenders and their families. The organization’s goal is to keep families together, prevent out-of-home placement and reduce commitments and re-commitments to the Division of Youth Services Juvenile Justice System.
To achieve these goals the agency offers: Casework, Aftercare Services, House Arrest, Education and Therapy, Mental Health Services and Emergency Shelter and Residential Treatment.
United Family Services has five offices throughout the state, over 50 employees and hundreds of clients, many of which are in multiple programs. Before implementing DocuWare, the agency was completely paper driven and transferring files between offices was cumbersome. If a client moved, someone would have to physically drive the file to the new office. Files were often quite large and the agency was running out of space to manage all this paper. In addition, the policies and procedures they had in place to secure their files and check for missing documents were laborious and inefficient.
UFS knew they wanted to implement an electronic database that could be shared across locations and across departments. Ease-of-use and cost were major issues and the agency just did not have the budget for a large software purchase expense. After evaluating five or six solutions, UFS decided to implement DocuWare Cloud because of its consistent cost per month, the software’s features, and the integrity of the agency’s trusted IT vendor and Authorized DocuWare Partner.
Lekita Thomas, UFS’s Special Program Manager, set up a series of workshops with her supervisors to standardize document and form names across programs and develop a uniform list of index fields. The agency’s intake form was also revised to make it relevant for all programs so information didn’t need to be duplicated. After an employee training class was held, caseworkers started using DocuWare Cloud immediately for all new clients. The second step was to scan all active files into DocuWare. To speed up this process, the agency hired and trained “scan workers” who completed this project in just two short months.
As a last step, the “scan team” met with case workers one-on-one to back scan their files. The agency is required to store seven years of case files. Once the files from the past two years were digitized, the decision was made to stop back scanning older files and focus on expanding the use of DocuWare to other work processes. Furthermore, with DocuWare Cloud in place, document retention became completely automated.
The agency set up 2-3 scanning stations in each office and developed a list of who was responsible for scanning which documents. Each program has its own “digital” file cabinet. The agency uses DocuWare’s “All Cabinets” search if they need to find the original intake form for a client or review which programs they are enrolled in.
“We made using DocuWare mandatory. Moving away from paper was hard for some of our employees but after a few weeks of seeing the benefits of a digital document solution and the user-friendliness of DocuWare Cloud, those that initially opposed came back to us to tell us how much they really liked the new system,” stated Thomas.
Revising the intake form and renaming documents eliminated duplicate work, simplified information access and streamlined document retrieval across the agency.
“Most of our clients are in more than one program, so when we revised our intake form, we eliminated a lot of unnecessary paperwork. Our updated form only has to be filled out once, regardless of the number of programs they join,” said Thomas, “And with more than 700 clients in multiple programs, this reduction in the amount of paperwork is a good thing.”
Document retrieval time has been drastically reduced now that files no longer need to be physically reviewed and checked in and out of a file room. When using paper, the agency had a lot of procedures and policies in place aimed at keeping track of information. Today, digital access and security have replaced those processes. Likewise, gaining the ability to electronically search a large case file has had a significant impact on the usability of existing information. These factors combined enhanced employee productivity.
Additionally, employee stress levels have decreased as the burden of working with time-intensive paper processes has been lifted allowing employees to have more bandwidth to dedicate to quality interactions with their clients. This new flexibility has improved their work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.
“I had a case worker take her client to a community college to enroll in school. The client felt very out of his element, so his caseworker took the time to sit with him throughout the entire financial aid process. DocuWare Cloud has lifted a burden for my caseworkers. They always made time for their clients but now they have the flexibility to really make a difference” said Thomas.
Now that DocuWare Cloud is in place, the agency’s file rooms have been repurposed and turned into an on-site clothing room for kids and adults clothing. “We may have a client going to a job interview with nothing appropriate to wear. A quick stop at our on-site clothes closet can make all the difference. I’m so glad that we now have the space to provide this service,” continued Thomas.
Approximately 10 employees, who used to work as “gatekeepers” and were responsible for checking files in and out of the file room, have been reassigned to other tasks.
DocuWare was so successful with the case files that the agency moved their Human Resources documents to DocuWare. Indexing the documents was easy and setting up security and controlled access rights to meet privacy requirements was straightforward. United Family Services even converted some of their HR forms from word documents to an online form that automatically indexes and stores itself when the new employee hits the “submit” button.
For Thomas, the biggest benefit for her personally is the increase in employee accountability.
“I never need to ask an employee, ‘How many visits did you do this week?’ I can just look up the information in DocuWare. I love the transparency it brings to our process,” said Thomas.
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