Child Services gets Much-Needed Boost from Dublin-Based Northwoods
The professionals that work in the human services industry, including caseworkers, child welfare workers and the like, have a staggeringly high turnover rate.
Child welfare workers, in particular, are responsible for the very demanding job of ensuring a better living environment for children in unsafe conditions. Because of turnover, they could be among a long line of individuals to take on that same role with that same child or family. Workers never get to form a lasting relationship, because they are also responsible for an enormous amount of paperwork, making an already emotionally exhausting job even more daunting.
“These are extraordinarily difficult jobs. And the people who choose to do these things are people who have just an incredible heart,” says Christopher Carlson, chief government affairs officer of Northwoods. “They are given a very difficult job and often with tools that aren’t as good as they can be.”
Carlson has helped establish Northwoods as an industry leader, and currently serves as somewhat of an ambassador or liaison for agencies and government officials.
He says there is a lot of important reporting required by federal and state governments about what is happening with vulnerable children and their families, but the nature of the symptoms hasn’t allowed reporting to be automated or easy.
“It really requires these workers to take an inordinate amount of their time, not being with the families, not making better decisions about the kid or making better relationships with the families, but back in the office typing into [a] database,” he says.
Northwoods was founded in 2003 as a technology company embedded solely in the human services space.
In its early days, Northwoods primarily focused on the work agencies did back in the office. Its products helped with client flow management and documentation workflows, but these products were contained within four walls and didn’t help with the real work being done in the field.
But as the company has progressed, its solutions have grown with it. Child welfare workers can utilize Northwood’s mobile platform to do their fieldwork, so that aiding families and at-risk children can be more of a priority and paperwork can be done more efficiently.
Northwoods has been doing some innovative and exciting things with its products as well. In addition to a mobile platform, these solutions apply the latest in artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing to an entire case file, which work together to digest information. Within those files is all of the existing information available regarding a child or family throughout their interaction with the agency, including police reports, trial records and investigation narratives, among other reports. That information is intelligently presented to a caseworker to give greater insight into a child’s wellbeing.
There is also a level of dark data, information that is inaccessible and unknown to the child welfare workers, made consumable through Northwood’s Traverse product. The solution works with descriptive analytics, meaning it automates and summarizes historical data to return useful information and insights.
“That they can have a better understanding of the child’s past and the family’s past,” says Carlson. “And that better understanding of the past allows them to make better decisions about the kid’s future.”
Northwoods primarily helps relieve worker stress by taking off their plate a lof of data entry burdens, but it also tries to provide professionals with resources and referrals to help combat burnout, productivity hurdles and generally deal with the stress of their jobs.
And Northwoods’ attitude toward personal care doesn’t just extend toward the workers they serve, but its employees as well. The company has made several Best Places to Work lists, both locally and nationally, and strives to provide a fun and positive atmosphere.
“It’s kind of a new investment you make in your people,” says Carlson. “Attracting talent in the central Ohio area, which is not always the easiest thing to do, we’ve had a lot of success because of the company that we are, the mission that we have and the way we treat our folks.”
For more information on Northwoods, visit teamnorthwoods.com.
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