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Impact of Technology on Foster Family Agency – 6 Areas

Impact of Technology on Foster Family Agency – 6 Areas

It is tough to run Foster Family Agency with ever increasing number of foster children cases and support that they have to provide 24×7. Data Management can make or break an agency. This article addresses areas where data is vulnerable and provides how Technology can help a Foster Family Agency manage and protect their data efficiently.

Executive Director or Administrator of a Foster Family Agency wear multiple hats. They are tasked to provide services to Foster Children. To provide excellent service to foster children, Foster Family Agency must ensure their infrastructure is in place, whether it is their Resource Parents, Social Workers, Operational Staff, payroll, HR, or technology they are using. Every department including technology must perform at peak so that they can provide excellent service to Foster Children in placement. Needless to say, Foster Children outcomes can be measured more effectively with right use of technology.

Unfortunately, in addition to handling various departments, Administrators also must grapple with ever increasing demand to provide and protect foster family agency data. These includes but does not limit to Foster Children data including date of placement, date of birth etc., Resource Parent data including date of Approval, date of child placement etc., and Staff information including date of hire, evaluations etc. All these ‘data’ can bring multiple technology challenges such as:

  • Data Storage and Security
  • Data availability and mobile access
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Data Retention and legal holds
  • Cyberliability insurance, HIPAA regulation and Accreditation
  • Data Collaboration

Technology helps a foster family agency be more proactive and agile in providing support to foster children. It can help not only in providing quicker access to data for social workers but also assist in meeting various regulations.

There are various apps and tools available nowadays but there is a need for IT infrastructure to support those tools.

Let us look at each technological challenge with respect to Technology and Data it serves.

  • Data Storage and Security

    Foster Family Agency must keep all available data for Foster Children, Resource Parents, and other stakeholders. The size of the data depends on the size of the organization, but it is safe to assume it can be substantial. The data must be stored and accessed securely (link: and with utmost confidentiality. The data must be available quickly and easily when needed. Any amount of IT downtime or sluggishness can have disastrous consequences including but not limited to reputation damage.

    More and more counties are requiring agencies to provide Cyberliability insurance protection to protect themselves. As data breaches become prevalent, counties want to ensure their exposure is minimized. To receive cyber liability insurance, Agency need to demonstrate their processes and specially their technology infrastructure can withstand cyber-attacks. Failing to demonstrate that, the agency pays either higher premium or is denied coverage which can lead to losing county contract. If agency provides incorrect information on Cyberliability application, should an incident occur, their claim may be denied. For instance, if Cyberliability insurance requires hard drive or email encryption but agency does not have those in place, their claim may be denied.

  • Data availability and mobile access

    When Social Workers are in field, they may either provide information back to the agency or receive information from the Agency. For instance, a Social Worker may need copy of the Body Check to verify the new bruise is not the same as one before. In this scenario, not only Social Worker need information fast, but the back office must be able to provide that information quickly as well. If the IT system faces challenges when such an important piece of information is needed, it can cause potential issue. In addition, with COVID-19 pandemic, many of the Social Workers are working remotely but need access to their files and data from any device they use. Technology provided by Foster Family agency must be able to address this concern as well.

  • Data backup and disaster recovery

    Department of Social Services via Community Care Licensing Division and California counties expect Foster Family Agency to collect and store data regarding foster children and resource parents. These mandates are largely described in Interim Licensing Standards v5 (at the time of this writing) or County contracts or Statement of Work. Collecting data is one thing but ensuring the data is protected from accidental or intentional loss is entirely another thing. Every agency must have a Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan ( that supports 1-2-3 format of backup. This will ensure data is backed up locally, offsite and in the cloud. Cyber attacks are not the only threat that data needs to be protected from, the threats may come from nature (such as earthquakes) or man-made (such as water leaking into the Server room).

  • Data retention and legal holds

    Most federal (OMB Circular A-133), State and local governmental agencies require data retention to be part of their Financial Manuals. Most agencies maintain minimum or exceed those requirements. However, the problem becomes of data storage. Higher retention leads to more storage needs which leads to higher data backup and disaster requirements. The technology used in the agency must be able to meet those demands as well.

  • Cyberliability insurance, HIPAA regulation and Accreditation

    As mentioned before Cyberliability insurance requires an agency to meet certain technological requirements. Failure to demonstrate that may lead to coverage denial or higher premium. Technology at an agency must meet at the minimum:

    • Network Security using Firewall and other access-based policies.
    • Data Storage Protection
    • Data Protection
    • Overall physical and technical security
    • HIPAA compliance
    • Encryption of devices and Email

    In addition to that, agency must begin thinking about how to meet HIPAA regulations to protect foster children information. While HIPAA regulation addresses a lot of procedural requirements, it also requires agency to meet technical requirements.

    Finally, State of California requires, all Foster Family agencies to get accredited with one of the 3-4 Accreditation Agencies such CARF International (Link: Like HIPAA regulations, it addresses procedural requirements, but Accreditation also requires Strategic Technological Plan that must be documented and implemented. During the surveys, agency must demonstrate to the Surveyors that they have either met strategic requirements in Technology Plan or they have plan to make appropriate changes.

  • Data Collaboration

    In addition to protecting data, collaboration of information is another aspect that agency must investigate. This is not to meet any specific regulations, even though, it may help, but to increase productivity between Social Worker and other field workers with agency back office. To that end, Microsoft Office 365 implementation can substantially improve collaboration between office staff. All staff members are connected via a single Teams setup so they can safely and securely collaborate information, conduct video meetings or chat ideas. Moreover, that information stays with the agency and does not go with the employees unlike traditional SMS or Texts or personal emails.

    Another area, technology can help is using VOIP phone systems instead of personal cell phones or traditional phone systems. With VOIP phones, their work phones go with them whether they are in field or home or office. No longer will the agency need someone to take messages on behalf of an employee and pass on to them. Every staff member is connected no matter where they are.

So, what can be done?
As you can see, technology can assist in not only managing the data but also protect data, access data anytime as well collaborate in real time. Advise IT Solutions can review how your data is stored, managed, consolidate it, secure it, make it available to all employees or restrict as needed, provide robust data backup and disaster recovery and address data collaboration. This will ensure agency meets not just regulations but also save money on Cyberliability insurance premiums. With our Managed IT Service in Riverside, CA, your social workers and back office can call us for all IT support and service issues. This frees you to manage your operation and focus on increasing services to the children rather than worrying about why computer is slow or if your backups have completed and if they will save you when a disaster strike.

Call us today @ 951-777-2004.

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