The Louisiana Department of Social Services (DSS) today received national recognition for innovative Geographic Information System technology, the only system of its kind in the nation, to meet foster care needs of the state's children and families, according to a DSS release.  Louisiana's OCS Child Welfare Division won for its application of WebFOCUS BI technology from Information Builders, and geographic information system (GIS) software from ESRI. WebFOCUS complements the ESRI suite by extending reporting and analysis capabilities to mission-critical systems, such as child protection and foster care applications for capturing, managing, and displaying geographically-referenced child welfare information

The 2008 Recognition Award for Excellence in Human Services Technology was presented to DSS Secretary Ann Silverberg Williamson at the 41st Annual Information Technology Solutions Management for Human Services (ISM) Conference in San Francisco. The ISM is an affiliate of the American Public Human Services Association and recognizes and promotes excellence in human services information technology.

"This technology provides an invaluable new tool for DSS to meet the needs of the children and families we serve in the Office of Community Services (OCS)," Williamson said. "Each day, we strive to protect our most vulnerable children and build stronger families. It is an honor to be acknowledged for offering innovative and creative tools which continually improve our services."

With about two hours of training, the GIS allows OCS Child Welfare Division to track information that benefits children in foster care. The application integrates hardware, software and data for capturing and analyzing geographically referenced child welfare information. The system was developed by DSS Information Technology staff and Blue Streak Technologies of Baton Rouge.

For example, the Web-based computer technology allows a worker to view and zoom a map on a computer to locate foster homes and placement resources for a child near his or her current residence. This results in meeting the family's and child's needs by keeping the child in the same school system and reducing the number of transitions he must encounter. The system has the ability to locate nearby group homes, daycare, medical facilities, etc.

"This system supports our vision, goals and objectives by providing our management team and our front-line workers the tools to provide stability for these fragile children within a familiar environment," said OCS Assistant Secretary Marketa Garner Gautreau. "It also allows us to track trends and patterns in child welfare to help us make informed decisions and increase efficiency."

OCS is the first child welfare system in the nation to use GIS tracking technology in this manner, according to Tasha Moore, Blue Streak business intelligence integrator.