Rhode Island Social Workers to Receive Tablet Computers

The new technology will allow workers to enter notes into the system remotely, take and access case photos, and review old case notes.

by Jennifer Bogdan, The Providence Journal, R.I. / May 11, 2016
School districts nationwide are upgrading technologies, with the latest trend toward providing each student with a computer, tablet or similar device. Many do so for $350 per student or less, but the Los Angeles Unified School District is paying $768 per device. FLICKR/Flixelpix David
School districts nationwide are upgrading technologies, with the latest trend toward providing each student with a computer, tablet or similar device. Many do so for $350 per student or less, but the Los Angeles Unified School District is paying $768 per device.FLICKR/Flixelpix David

(TNS) -- Starting next month state social workers and investigators will be getting state-issued electronic tablets allowing access to case notes, email and other information while they are in the field.

The Department of Children Youth and Families will launch the technology with 20 staffers on June 1 with the goal of expanding the technology to all field workers by January 2018. Approximately $450,000 was included in this year's budget for software design and tablet purchases.

While the idea that mobile access to email would be touted as a new accomplishment in 2016 might seem unusual, Jamia McDonald, chief strategy officer overseeing the DCYF, said this is the first time in decades that there has been a technology upgrade for front-line staff.

"We want to spend more time with children and families and less time doing paperwork, and now our process will be more efficient," said Lori Fernandes, a DCYF casework supervisor who helped design the software.

Currently, DCYF staff working offsite at court appearances or with families take handwritten notes that are later typed into a computer system at their offices. The new technology will allow workers to enter notes into the system remotely, take and access case photos, and review old case notes.

A review last year showed that staff lose as much as 30 to 40 percent of their time completing administrative tasks, commuting to the office and attending court, McDonald said.

Governor Raimondo touted the technology as a way to improve efficiency.

"No one becomes a social worker because they like paperwork. We are putting the right technology in the field to give our caseworkers more flexibility to spend time with the people they serve," Raimondo said.

The staff will receive Dell Latitude tablets with touch screens that will be capable of accessing a new web-enabled Case Activity Notes (CANs) module. NTT Data, an IT company headquartered in Japan with an office in New York City, consulted with DCYF on the project.

©2016 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.