For over a decade, the Stewards of Change has convened and collaborated with government, industry, academia and nonprofit leaders to drive progress in policy, practice and structures across the intersecting domains of health, human services, juvenile justice, public health and education, among others. The Stewards’ research, consultation and advocacy work have focused primarily on advancing information- sharing, interoperability and person/family-centric care, with the bottom-line objective of improving the lives of children and families, while strengthening the communities and systems on which they depend. From its inception, one of the Stewards’ priorities has been to help child welfare systems at all levels better-serve their stakeholders through utilization of the most current approaches and technologies.
Cognitive computing is one of the most promising of new technologies because it can address a primary impediment to child welfare professionals: the inability to gather, analyze and utilize the most-useful information with which to do their work, and using that information to coordinate an increasingly complex network of care to promote greater organizational efficiency by providers and better outcomes for clients. Cognitive computing holds the promise of significantly mitigating that impediment, and perhaps even overcoming it.
This white paper, underwritten by IBM, examines how this technology could impact the child welfare
field in particular and social programs in general. In the next section, it provides a brief overview of the field, followed by an explanation of cognitive computing, and then a hypothetical case-study scenario to illustrate how child welfare personnel and their clients might experience an environment reshaped by cognitive tools. Subsequently, the paper describes the application of cognitive computing to a variety of problems and unmet needs hampering the child welfare system and for which current tools and technologies are inadequate. We then consider the larger health and social services environment in which child welfare organizations operate, and the potential opportunity to apply cognitive computing to provide assistance and support for evidence-based decision- making. Finally, the paper provides a short roadmap for moving forward, key findings, recommendations and conclusions.
Research for this paper included a broad literature review, roundtable meetings in three cities around the U.S. with more than 50 child welfare leaders, and additional input from more than a dozen child welfare and technology professionals. While it is not definitive or conclusive, it offers an overview of critical issues and suggests a path for making substantive progress toward the goals that health, human services and child welfare professionals have long been working to achieve.