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A Call for NPOs to Leverage Technology and Data to Drive Greater Social Impact Featured

A Call for NPOs to Leverage Technology and Data to Drive Greater Social Impact Jordan McDonald

The role of social workers is more demanding than ever before and the needs of human services continues to outpace the bandwidth of the most valued asset in driving social impact: our frontline workers. An average case load for a social worker is 300 people and there aren’t enough qualified workers to fulfill the skyrocketing human need. In simple terms, it is estimated that 38 out of 50 states across the US do not have enough social workers to support the humans in need today.

My name is John Tramel and I support the team of employees and volunteers at Drumm Center for Children, also known as Drumm Farm. For over 20 years we’ve provided much needed housing and support services to children in foster care and young adults who are homeless in the community.

Our organization is focused on three main programs. The first program connects to our history as an orphanage, and we call it the HOME Program, which is a village of foster homes across 50 acres that creates a welcoming neighborhood feel for families to live full time on our campus. We transitioned to a residential group home model in the 80’s, and roughly 10 years ago we shifted into a family-centered neighborhood setting filled with full-time foster homes. This model has allowed us to significantly improve the outcomes for foster children. It eliminates the institution feeling of other models, allows us to keep siblings together, and lets these children experience what it truly feels like to be part of a family.  

Our second program, the COMPASS Program, is a campus transitional program that offers an apartment-style home living environment that delivers intensive support services for youth and young adults ages 16 to 22. It also provides necessary services to help them become self-sustaining and emotionally healthy young people. This program’s core focus is to help young adults gain stability and make significant progress to becoming independent young adults. We do this by providing immediate services such as healthcare, food, transportation, and stable housing; clinical services to support mental health; and educational-support services with certified teachers across the state of Missouri to foster the ability to achieve sustainable employment and develop true independency. However long these children are with us–for a short time or an extended stay–we make sure they can learn in a safe, caring environment where they feel connected to and involved in family life.  

Our third program is a Street Outreach Program where we provide case management support and therapeutic services for homeless youth and young adults ages 14 to 21 throughout the community who are not living at Drumm Farm. We find housing and support services for them through our local continuum of care, and our partnership with the Kansas City Work Readiness Center delivers that extra layer of support for those young adults looking for even more workforce development programs to foster long-term, independent sustainability.

Drumm Farm recognized the need to embrace technology and automation to better serve the youth across the community that relied on our services. We also realized that implementing case management technology would give us easier access to participant data and help us better understand individual needs, more efficiently manage the hundreds of applications in the metro-wide system, and track youth service requests for faster response delivery. We quickly realized the efficiencies associated with Social Solutions’ Apricot case management software, which has allowed us to serve more people and foster community collaboration.

Here are more details about our experience:

Selecting a Solution

I joined Drumm Farm as Associate Director in 2016. We did not have a data system in place and the team was working predominantly from Excel spreadsheets while using manual pen and paper for all forms and files. I knew early on that we needed to move from this archaic way of tracking applications and managing services for each individual. For example, it took me four days to create a grant report that could have been done in 20 minutes with technology to automate the process.

Several social services organizations across the community, including dozens of school districts, had been using Social Solutions’ Apricot case management software to improve operations, go paperless, streamline workflows, track performance, and enable growth, and I had seen the difference it made firsthand. Even though our budget for technology was small at the time, it was a natural choice for us to make an investment and deploy Apricot at Drumm Farm knowing it would help increase efficiency, inform decisions about resource allocation, and foster community collaboration to better serve individuals.

Streamlining the Case Management Process and Fueling Grant Growth

Apricot was fully implemented at Drumm Farm in the summer of 2017 and it has been transformational for us. Having this data system in place has allowed us to streamline our processes and grow and serve an increasing number of children and youth in need. Our campus has grown from four foster homes to 11 foster homes. Additionally, we will soon have 31 housing units, up from four units in 2016. This growth is tied directly to the Apricot case management system, which accelerated our ability to monitor assessment tools, analyze the data we were collecting, and measure outcomes accurately. Our service-delivery model is multifaceted, and Apricot allows us to easily track–for each individual–educational outcomes, clinical outcomes, therapeutic outcomes, life skills outcomes, and case management status all in one place.

Prior to our technology integration project, Drumm received approximately $30,000 in grants a year. From 2016 to present, we’ve seen a 15X growth in annual grants and Apricot has made it increasingly efficient and easy to manage the grant process paperwork. We can assess daily and run outcome reports quickly at any given time. Paper applications and associated manual surveys are a process of the past. Technology has completely automated this process and made it simple to compare assessment periods, run reports based on data queries, and produce calculations. Outcome reporting that previously took several days is now a mere-minutes process. Importantly, this access to data has positively impacted our fundraising efforts as grantors can see how their donation is really helping children. It also gives us an opportunity to evaluate our mission, articulate where adjustments need to be made, and identify new services we potentially should be providing.

Fostering Community Collaboration

Apricot 360 has increased our ability to serve youth and we now know more about what interventions are helping them. Additionally, we’ve been able to form a true partnership with various program providers across multiple locations within the metro Kansas City community to provide transitional living for homeless youth. We now have a single, shared, and automated application process that simplifies applications for the agencies and youth seeking housing. For example, since we can all access Apricot Connect, I can create one report that allows partner agencies to view and add notes to an applicant’s record. 

The software also allows me to put access permissions in place so documents remain confidential. As an example, a therapist has access to therapeutic documents only and a teacher has access to educational documents pertaining to the individual only.  As the administrator, I can track data cross-functionally and quickly create reports that show a child’s progress over the year. I can analyze and accurately assess the data to see a child’s stability across all kinds of life domains over a period of time, see growth patterns, and calculate areas where more specific areas of service may be needed.

Currently, we manage more than 800 youth applications in the metro-wide system, all through Apricot Connect, track the youth requesting services at a regional level, and provide faster time-to-service to significantly improve the participant application process and overall experience. We’re truly collaborating as a community to best serve youth.

Whatever your nonprofit’s mission may be, leveraging technology and data is the fastest way to transform your operations and drive greater social impact. If Drumm Farm can do it, anyone can do it.  

John Tramel, Associate Director, Drumm Center for Children

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