In response to the need for more consistent practice in child welfare intake, some states are implementing centralized statewide child abuse and neglect intake systems. To more effectively handle the increased volume of calls received, the central intake center requires a technology-supported system to assist state and local staff in protecting abused and neglected children.
Texas Statewide Intake (SWI)
The state of Texas covers a substantial and diverse geographic region. With over 250 local child welfare offices statewide, Texas sought to better utilize their workforce and workspace in order to have a more efficient and effective intake system. When Texas began the process to create a statewide intake system, the main focus was to implement a system that would be consistent across a large and varied geographic area. In response to these needs, the State of Texas created a system intended to be user-friendly, effective, and consistent. The intake operation requires a blend of child welfare practice and technology application.
In Texas, all reports of child abuse and neglect, as well as abuse and neglect of the elderly or disabled or within licensed child care settings, are received at a central call center located in Austin. Those reporting abuse or neglect call an 800 number and speak to a specialist trained in intake regarding all areas of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Reports may also be made electronically through the state’s web site.
Texas Statewide Intake encompasses several components. The main elements, which will be discussed here, are call routing, call center workforce management, digital voice recording, and internet reports of abuse and neglect.
Call Routing Centralization implementation began in September 1996 with the delivery of the Child and Adult Protective System (CAPS), Texas’ SACWIS until August 2003. It continued in stages with separate regions being added to Statewide Intake every three to four months until July 1999 when the Houston region was assimilated and completed the process. State and local staff partnered to go into the community and talk to other local child welfare staff, professionals, members of the community, and law enforcement to gain support for the central intake center. One approach to gaining the support of law enforcement was the implementation of a separate prioritized phone number for law enforcement officials to call when reporting abuse and neglect. This allows them to automatically be the next call taken. Law enforcement officials may also report child abuse or neglect via the internet, fax, or mail.
The Texas Statewide Intake Center uses an Avaya Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to distribute calls. A wall mounted reader board and a desktop software application gives intake specialists and supervisors visual information regarding the number of calls holding and caller wait time.
Reports that have been accepted for investigation are assigned electronically to specific workloads in the appropriate county. Reports are prioritized and the highest-risk investigations are called out to the local office and then assigned to a designated workload and followed-up with a phone call to the local office. The local office staff then assigns the report to an investigator..
Cross-reports to law enforcement are made according to the local law enforcement office’s preference and technological capabilities. The cross-reports are sent to law enforcement either via e-mail (MS Outlook) or by fax (RightFax).
Call Center Workforce Management When Texas began the rolling implementation of the central call center, administrators had very little information on which to base projected staffing needs. At the beginning stages it proved difficult to determine staffing needs in order to estimate the necessary financial support. While the call center was in its early stages, staff scheduling was done manually in a spreadsheet format.
Texas currently uses IEX, a workforce management program that projects staffing levels based on historical call volume for various times of the day, week, and year. This enables managers to schedule the appropriate staff levels and. IEX also schedules shifts and breaks for all call center employees.
Digital Voice Recording Texas uses Telstrat Engage Voice Recording System to capture all incoming and outgoing calls to the center. This allows supervisors and the Quality Assurance Unit to review the recorded calls for evaluation of the interview, documentation, assessment, processing, and customer service provided by intake staff. The call recordings may also be used to assist investigative staff and the courts in their investigation and prosecution of abuse or neglect
Internet Reports of Abuse and Neglect Non-emergency reports of child and adult abuse and neglect may also be submitted electronically through the state’s intake web site. On the reporting page, anyone with concerns about abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child, adult age 65 or older, or an adult with a disability can complete a form with all relevant information regarding the suspected abuse or neglect. Reports made through the internet may not be anonymous. Contact information and most of the other information fields are required. Reporters receive an e-mail with a confirmation number letting them know the report was successfully submitted. When the report has been reviewed by intake staff, an additional e-mail is sent to the reporter which includes the report number and informs the reporter of the assessment decision. E-reports are encrypted using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security, which under Texas state law is sufficient for HIPAA-covered institutions to file reports of child abuse and neglect.
A specialized unit of intake specialists read these electronic reports and the information is populated directly into IMPACT, Texas’ current web-based SACWIS system. This eliminates the need for intake specialists to re-input information that has already been provided by the reporter. While an intake specialist taking live phone calls can usually handle about 1.5 calls an hour, a worker reading e-reports can process approximately 3-4 per hour.
In response to the need for a more consistent and efficient intake process, the state of Texas has utilized several technological applications to create their statewide intake system. Since its implementation, support of the system by stakeholders has increased significantly. For more information regarding Statewide Intake in Texas, please contact Richard.Zimmerman@dfps.state.tx.us. For more information regarding the Texas SACWIS system, please contact Scott Rogillio, SACWIS/IMPACT Manager, at Scott.Rogillio@dfps.state.tx.us.