The State of Louisiana's Department of Social Services (DSS) has successfully launched increment one of its A Comprehensive Enterprise Social Services Systems (ACESS) project. This stage of the ACESS project provides important functionality to DSS such as a web-based benefits screening capability across multiple eligibility programs. It also targets the critical up-front processes in child welfare management to screen child abuse allegations and manage the requirement and process for an investigation.

When completed, ACESS will provide DSS with a modern, integrated, and flexible human services software platform to effectively manage clients and cases, unify and expand the delivery of human services, and improve the outcomes and cost effectiveness of its social services programs for children and families.

ACESS is based on an enterprise approach and will provide the foundation for DSS to manage multiple programs in the future, including Child Welfare, Child Care, Strategies to Empower People (STEP), Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP), Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP), Food Stamps, and others. As future phases are completed, ACESS will provide deeper and broader functionality across DSS and enable caseworkers to manage the complete client and case lifecycle in a single, integrated system.

The successful completion of this project milestone is consistent with two major DSS goals --a "No Wrong Door" business model and a fully modernized child welfare system. Louisiana's No Wrong Door initiative places the citizen-customer at the center of social services delivery and improves client outcomes by giving citizens access to the full range of social services in a coordinated and seamless manner. A new Statewide Automated Child Welfare System (SACWIS) will enable DSS to achieve the safety, permanency, and well-being goals of its child welfare program through the holistic management of its clients and the services they require.

"ACESS transforms the way Louisiana delivers its social services to its most important clients, children and families," said Duane Fontenot, Director of Information Technology, State of Louisiana, Department of Social Services. "By consolidating the department's programs on a common system, ACESS allows us to focus on the needs of our citizens--empowering a more comprehensive and effective case management system for both the client and agency."

Hurricane Katrina dramatically affected DSS's day-to-day operations. In the aftermath of the hurricane, DSS had to attend to the immediate needs of Louisiana's citizens--children and families who remained in the state and those displaced and in some cases separated across the country. Hurricane Katrina forced a region-wide migration with many Louisianans leaving for neighboring states. However, the exodus from the state did not result in less work; on the contrary, a great number of displaced citizens required benefits, highlighting the need for self service over the web, through call centers, and by other modes of remote assistance.