For more than 130 years, Barnardos has been at the forefront of child welfare service provision, finding safe homes and working with families to prevent abuse and improve the future of disadvantaged Australian children.
To facilitate much of their work, Barnardos used a number of disparate software solutions to manage different client services, but the systems had no interconnectivity. It was difficult for Barnardos to track a child's journey as they moved through the different services with the system tracking around 3000 clients per day 365 days a year.
With multiple systems, there was a high risk of key information could be lost or overlooked. Barnardos sought to simplify their operations by providing a single solution for these workloads to simplify the user experience, improve collaboration and enable reporting of information that is more accurate.
For example, a mother and child could start with an entry in one system as a referral for a short-term service such as the provision of an electricity voucher. If they returned for more intensive support such as parenting skills, this would be recorded in another system. If the child then had to move into foster care, it involved yet another system.
As these systems had no capacity to talk to each other, the worker had to manually enter the client information again despite having it readily available. This could mean asking the client the same questions over again.
Barnardos needed an integrated system that could record a child's complete life story as well as provide workers with flexible guided case management tools. A system that could also capture copies of the drawings they might hang on the fridge, or correspondence with their birth parents.
The system also had to take into account differences and ongoing changes in welfare legislation and policies of different states, territories and agencies across Australia and New Zealand.
Sue Cribb, head of IT, said Barnardos Australia had limited IT skills at the time, so put out a tender request to find a technology partner to help create a single case management solution with a simplified user experience that would improve collaboration and more accurate reporting.
“More than just a management tool, we needed a solution to support case workers. It was crucial for the new system to get their buy-in”
Sue Cribb, Head of IT
Barnardos chose Australian software developer and Microsoft Gold Partner, Readify and its partner brand and user experience design agency Folk to support them with the concept creation of an integrated guided practice case management system called MyStory.
Built in the Microsoft Azure cloud, the platform is available to nearly 500 case workers anywhere, anytime, and other agencies via an affordable Software-as-a-Service model.
To create MyStory's interface, Barnardos' Practice Development Team and Folk, ran in-depth user experience research with clients, case workers, carers, managers and researchers. Readify then embedded up to four of its agile developers to work alongside Barnardos' own team, which Readify helped retrain across from other technology. The team developed the software in full consultation with users.
Building on the previous Barnardos case management systems, Readify incorporated existing research knowledge and best practice to create an innovative platform.
Readify created a dashboard, which provides easy navigation and quick links to all the necessary case information at a glance. This could include school and health records or whether a client is making connections with their cultural community.
To track complex relationships, Readify built a graph database on top of Neo4j's native graph engine in order to show connections between a child, their family, their case workers and the people they are in touch with.
The team also created a library function to allow case workers to upload children's photos, videos, assessments, health records, drawings, school certificates and letters to build a digital life story, which can be shared with family members and carers.
Readify's agile methodology saw the software developer release early and often, creating a tight feedback loop between developers and users. Readify pushed a new build-to-testing daily, and went to production every fortnight. This approach allowed for iterative design refinement to ensure the system would be easy to use, would embed good casework practices and support the principles of permanency planning, adoption and restoration.
Designed by practitioners for practitioners, MyStory allows case workers to spend more time helping children and families, and less time on administration.
Rather than having to navigate disparate systems and potentially missing important information, users can now learn about a child's history at a glance via a clean, engaging and intuitive interface.
Workers are connected with real time data and guidance, making MyStory a transparent and accountable decision-making platform to guide them through a case in accordance with best practice.
The cloud platform can be used from a PC, laptop or tablet so case workers can access, share and contribute to a client's file on site. As well as helping with decision-making, this also enables MyStory to meet national standards for children in out of home care and legislative requirements for recording and sharing information between the worker, client, carer and government agencies.
The cloud model guarantees the privacy and security of the sensitive data, and it also means Barnardos can easily scale up as new agencies join, without extensive lead times, costly provisioning work or upfront capital expenditure.
MyStory's diverse high quality reporting and service monitoring capabilities are helping the charity meet statutory reporting and funding requirements and save significant time.
But the true value of MyStory lies in the platform's ability to follow the children throughout their childhood.
Many children who come into care have experienced multiple moves and changes of placement and caseworkers. They often have significant questions about their early experiences to which they may not have the answers. MyStory now captures this vital information in one central location, it supports the sharing of information, enabling the best decisions to be made in relation to the child but more importantly it digitally preserves important life story information for them. MyStory ensures a child's key events, images and memories are captured during their time in care. Greater detail and accurate information results in better outcomes and better informed placement decisions for individuals.
“MyStory isn't just a database built in isolation by a group of developers working from a brief. From the onset, Readify and the IT Development team worked closely with the Barnardos Practice Development team to ensure the system would be user friendly, embed good casework practice and, most importantly, promote permanency and better outcomes for children”
Sue Cribb, Head of IT
“Readify has been a responsive and flexible partner and has even helped Barnardos recruit, reskill and mentor staff for this project”
Sue Cribb, Head of IT