Introduction to ChildStory, the ChildStory Platform and how we've redesigned ChildStory
We believe that every child deserves to be safe and have a permanent and stable home for life.
To deliver on this promise we need an information system that is responsive to the complexity of the work of child protection, that can support decision making by recording and recalling the right information at the right time and supports collaboration between the people that matter in a child’s life.
To respond to this challenge the NSW Government has commissioned the ChildStory project within the Department of Family Community Services.
Operating within the broader framework of the Safe Home for Life reform, ChildStory represents a once in a generation opportunity to create an information technology system that places the child at the centre of their story and builds around them a network of family, carers, caseworkers and service providers that work collaboratively, with each other and the child, to keep them safe - an opportunity to tell a child’s story.
To achieve this change we’re going to replace a number of existing IT systems with one integrated platform that is easy to use and supports our people to do more of what we know works.
We’re going to build into our system opportunities for everyone involved in a child’s care to make their own valuable contribution. And, along the way we’re going to take advantage of opportunities, provided to us by better technology, to improve practice and processes.
What this means is that children and families will have more information and involvement in what is happening to them, caseworkers will have access to better tools so they can spend more time working with children and families and less time in the office and service provider organisations will be able to work more closely with the Department sharing information and coordinating care so every child gets the attention they deserve.
The ChildStory Platform
When complete, the ChildStory platform will represent not just a replacement of a number of existing technology systems but also a significant expansion of the digital toolkit available to caseworkers, service providers, families, carers and children. Although the platform will operate as one highly integrated platform, to understand what it will do it’s helpful to look at the five key components that will make up ChildStory. These components represent the five key user groups and reflect how these users will interact with ChildStory.
For FACS caseworkers and support staff
A place for caseworkers to access all the tools and information they need, when in the office or in the field. Including assessment tools, interactive case planning, caseload management, referrals, contact management, and more.
For service provider organisations
A single entry point for Service Provider Organisations to interact with Family and Community Services (FACS). This includes referral and placement management, managing contracts, payments, service delivery and access to data analytics.
For reporters of harm or risk of harm
A single location to report on the welfare of children and young people, access supporting resources, and view feedback on previous reports.
Caring for Kids
For families and carers
A location for family and carers to access information and collaborate with everyone involved in the support of a child or young person. Families and carers will have access to a child’s life story, their life plan, referral services, and contact management facilitation.
For Children and Young People
Most importantly, Childstory will provide a child or young person with information and tools to interact with all the people involved in their care.
The co-design process
The ChildStory project began life as the Frontline Systems Replacement project of the Safe Home for Life reform program. Since then much work has been done to understand the root causes of the problems with our current technology systems and the needs of all (current and future) users of the child protection information technology systems.
An understanding grew from this work that we needed more than just a replacement of our existing technology, we needed a system that was capable of placing the child at the centre our work, a system capable of telling a child’s story.
To help us understand how our clients, frontline staff and partners use technology to interact with us and each other we have used a process called co-design. Co-design is a human-centred way of creating technology that recognises that people are the experts in their jobs and lives. With co-designed technology the solutions are designed with, as opposed to designed for, people.
Through this process the ChildStory team have used many different co-design approaches including; co-design workshops, diary studies, collages, work shadows and interviews. We have used co-design with Family and Community (FACS) staff, our NGO partners, carers, kids and families to gain valuable insights into the world we are trying to improve.
By using co-design we have been able to develop a deep appreciation of the needs of not just our technology systems but the people who will use, and those that will be impacted by, those systems. One of the key building blocks of this work has been the mapping of the Child Journey where we came to understand the different stages of a child’s journey in the protection system, the challenges at each of those points and what we could do to help.
Below is some further detail on some of the methods we used as part of the co-design process.
At co-design events, a learning environment is created in which the experiences, ideas and meanings are created and shared with participants. We conducted a series of co-design events with stakeholders at different stages of our requirements process. Some workshops were focused on mapping out current processes and understanding frustrations and process bottlenecks. Other workshops focused on idea generation where together we came up with new IT services and interfaces that could better support FACS workers and families.
Members of our team went out to shadow our frontline workers. We went out on car trips to visit kids and watched different staff interact with the current IT tools and systems back at the office. We observed where the pain points were and considered what day-to-day life might look like for frontline staff if they had better technology. We saw first hand that case work is best done with social interactions and relationships, not time-consuming paperwork or IT processes.
Co-design relies on the making of ‘things’ (objects and visualisations), which we can use to think and talk with. In early 2015 we sent out instruction packs and some craft materials to lots of different FACS offices and asked them to create a collage to depict a part of the child journey, such as adoption or leaving care as they saw it.
These collages enabled us to see where the people on the ground felt the challenges lay. They were used during the first co-design workshops as conversation starters and to gather key problems to address.
We asked some FACS workers to do diary work over a two-week period. This included them telling us about their day, what went well and what didn’t, a letter to the ‘Queen of FACS’ telling her how she should do things differently and thinking about their day and how would they like the future to look. These self-reporting activities were done independently and they gave us a good understanding about what some of the needs of these staff were.
Our team spent considerable time out meeting different stakeholders in the FACS ecosystem. We spoke to carers to understand what challenges they faced when caring for kids and how IT tools and better access to information could better support them and the kids in their care. We talked to young people who have left care to understand the challenges they faced during care and when leaving care at 18.
We visited external and NGO partners like Family by Family and Whalan public school to understand their needs and FACS workers in regional and metropolitan areas across the state in order to understand what they need, how they work, the tools they use and how improved technology can make an impact.
The data from these interviews helped us to construct the requirements that are going out to different IT vendors, specifying the different capabilities the new IT services need to support.
These are some ways that the ChildStory program has been able to put people at the centre of our work so that we can design improved IT systems with our users, empowering us to put children and families at the centre of our work.