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Modern technology can be a powerful tool in gathering key data and improving service delivery for child welfare.

The development of human-centred digital tools is seeing as the most effective way to reduce paperwork, data entry, and redundant tasks to allow social workers to focus more on the needs of the youth and families in their care.

Last month, the European Social Network (ESN) together with Binti organised a webinar in the frame of our work on social services technology, which was also the theme of our recent 2023 European Social Services Conference. At the webinar, we discussed how new technology can help social workers reduce the time they spent on administrative tasks, improve collaboration, and increase time spent on with the children and the families they support.

Digital child welfare solutions

Rebecca Liebschutz, Chief of Staff at Binti, opened the discussion by sharing how Binti was founded following the personal experience of the CEO, Felicia Curcuru, who experienced at first-hand the stressful and complex procedure of the adoption system in the United States.

She outlined how social workers used to spend 50% of their time doing administrative work and 50% doing social work with less time to focus on children and families adding to social worker frustration.

“Our goal in Binti is to free the workers from processes that can be done automatically and be built into  IT systems” said Duke Storen, Senior Director of Child Welfare Strategy at Binti.

Challenges and lessons learned in designing child-centred technology

Ger Bophy, Chief Social Worker at Ireland’s Child and Family Agency (Tusla), highlighted the need for balance between a system that facilitates social services professionals to do their work and to ensure that all the necessary procedures are followed and the right data recorded.. It is important to implement a system that allows social workers to have time to build relationships with the children and carers they are supporting.

Like Binti, Tusla has created a portal which allows to flag concerns. The referrals they make are automatically acknowledged  so all data can be tracked and traced easily.

“There are many challenges when it comes to technology in child welfare,” said Dario Peter, Team lead programme IT systems, SOS Children’s Villages International. However, the most significant issue is not technology but whether business processes are well established. One of the main challenges is having a flexible and useful tool for social workers and at the same time a system which informs decision making on a larger scale.

Mr Storen also highlighted the importance of working on technology infrastructure and disconnected mobile solutions since many families do not have Internet access. For Ms Liebschutz, it is key to invest in change management and leadership buy-in  to support workers to make the shift to technology.

Next steps

ESN CEO, Alfonso Lara Montero highlighted how child welfare technology and specifically digital child protection systems were part of a wider set of reforms on children’s services. These themes are very much on our agenda as ESN plans to revisit them next year in its annual seminar with a focus on community family care and workforce support.

ESN is also leading Side by Side - Reinforcing integrated child protection services – an European Union-funded project on the role of social services in addressing violence against children,  focusing on identifying social workers training needs.

Watch the discussion here.