Louis Cretaro Selected to Head Court Processing Digital Service

County Consultant Louis Cretaro has been selected to serve as Service Manager for the Court Processing Digital Service, CWDS announced on June 28th. Cretaro, who currently serves on the CWDS project as a consultant for the California Welfare Directors Association, previously served as a Health and Human Service applications team supervisor in Placer County for 15 years.  He will also continue to serve as a subject matter expert on the project's interfaces team. One of eight digital services within the CWDS project, the Court Processing Digital Service will provide state and county staff with software that allows a child welfare professional to generate, complete, submit, and record submission of proper legal notice, court reports and court results. Working closely with county representatives and the CWS/CMS user community across the state, CWDS Service Managers lead product design and development teams to create software for the project to replace the legacy system used by case workers to help protect children in California.      

California Conducting National Search for Agile Development Chief

California is recruiting for a chief to lead development on one of its highest profile systems, the Child Welfare Digital Services project to replace a 20 year-old legacy system used by case workers across the state’s 58 counties.  Using open source software, agile methodologies and user-centered design, the project is embarking on an innovative new approach for California state government.

“All eyes are on this demonstration project, California’s first major effort using agile methodologies which represents a fundamental shift in the way state government approaches technology,” said Office of Systems Integration Director John Boule.  “A year and a half ago we abandoned the decade-old monolithic approach on this project, in favor of a modern, innovative strategy modeled after examples in the private sector and more recent success stories in the federal government.

“Case workers need modern, effective tools that allow them to spend more time in the field protecting children and less time in an office, in front of a computer,” Boule continued.  “A talented development chief will appreciate our clients’ needs and drive our team to produce the highest quality replacement system.”

In November of 2015, the project changed its development strategy from the traditional “waterfall” approach to using agile methodologies which focus on iterative development cycles and a rapid feedback loop with end-users.  Agile teams work in two-week sprints with daily status meetings to measure progress.  The new approach includes DevOps teams, placing a strong emphasis on collaboration between network engineers, developers, business program managers and state and county subject matter experts.

“Other states are watching as we use open source code as a public good that can be freely copied by government agencies and the public at large,” said Peter Kelly, Chief Deputy Director for the Office of Systems Integration, the agency overseeing the project.   “We are looking for an accomplished technology professional who can get the job done in California, and who understands the greater potential and impact of this project.”

Child Welfare Digital Services is reaching beyond California to find candidates to fill this role, classified as an official state position to oversee all application development activities on the project.  More details on the Development Chief position can be found here.

The project consists of eight digital services, or modules, to replace the legacy system that manages casework for county child protective services programs, foster home approvals and licensing, and other critical functions that allow case workers to protect children.   With the project’s first code release in March, teams of state staff and contractors, including designers, developers and project managers, have been working to get started under the new approach.  Momentum is building as more developer teams will be hired in the coming months.

The effort to replace the legacy CWS/CMS system began in 2004 with the Go Forward Plan to modernize the system, leading to the CWS Web project, approved in 2006. The California Legislature suspended the project in 2011, due to budget constraints, and required a study of CWS/CMS to answer specific question related to the existing system and approaches to address missing functionality. The Child Welfare Services – New System (CWS-NS) project received budget approval to move forward in July 2012.      

Implementation Update

The CWDS Implementation Team recently invited over 300 CWDS stakeholders to attend one of seven “CWDS Implementation Overview” meet-and-greet sessions. Those notified included Child Welfare Services and Probation Single Points of Contact (SPOCs), Technical Contacts, and Training Contacts from all 58 California counties, Kurok and Yurok Tribe contacts, CWS/CMS Regional User Group Chairs, and 6 CWS/CMS training academies. The CWDS Implementation Team conducted the seven sessions during the week of May 29. The purpose was to share high-level information about the implementation approach, identify some of the activities involved during implementation readiness, and provide a way for the participants to contact us and access project materials. The agenda specifically covered the following topics:
  1. What is Implementation?
  2. Why is Implementation Important?
  3. How do we Communicate?
  4. How can you Prepare for Implementation?
  5. What’s Next?
  6. How to Contact Us
  7. Q&A
In all, we had over 75 participants who officially RSVP’d and many more who called in at their convenience. Thirty-seven counties were represented along with three RTAs. During the sessions, the CWDS Implementation Team received questions; most of which fall into the categories below:
  1. System training/Training-the-Trainer (TTT)/Staff or End-User Training.
  2. More information about the Contractor Implementation Lead (IL) who will support each “Org” (which is the general name for the entities receiving implementation services).
  3. Implementation dates and timeframes.
  4. Access to the PPT used during the sessions and the recordings of each of the 7 sessions.
Coming Soon:  The CWDS Implementation Team will post the presentation, all 7 of the recorded sessions, and the full Q&A list to the Implementation Portal in the next couple of weeks. Remember that a CWS/CMS User Login is needed to access the Implementation Portal.

Graph: CWDS Digital Services Delivery, Sandbox

Later this year, CWDS plans to launch a “sandbox” for the public to see features in the new system.  While the child welfare system can only be accessed by authorized personnel whose job is to protect children, the sandbox will give the public a view into the new system using demonstration data.

Below is a chart that shows the delivery cycle for software features deployed into production.  The project’s eight modules will be launched in stages, with ongoing enhancements to be deployed on the modern infrastructure that will offer a vastly improved user experience.

The blue boxes on the left side of the graph represent the research, design and development of products in partnership with Core Counties , on behalf of users across the state.   The green boxes represent finished code that has been deployed.

As the project gets ready to deploy software to the counties, each county will have its own implementation lead to guide and support implementation readiness activities in the areas of project management, communications, data cleansing, organizational change management (OCM), staff training, and technical readiness. 

Key Points from This Week’s Meeting with Southern California County Directors

On May 25th, the CWDS team visited the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services to provide an update on the child welfare legacy system replacement project.   In a meeting with child welfare directors representing eight counties across Southern California, the team answered questions on some key topics, including:
  • The Child Welfare Digital Services project plans to achieve full functionality of the existing system by 2020, when the legacy system is scheduled to be decommissioned.   The project’s eight modules will be launched in stages, with ongoing enhancements to be deployed on the modern infrastructure that will offer a vastly improved user experience.
  • Guided by user-centered design principles, each digital service works with teams from 4 to 6 counties, designated as Core Counties, to help design the system and inform important decisions.  Every county has the opportunity to serve as a Core County. As subject matter experts with years of experience working as case workers, Core County representatives are considered part of the CWDS project team.  They represent the user community throughout all 58 counties.
  • To help improve communication between counties and the project, CWDS is taking a more strategic approach to regular meetings so that important information can better reach county leadership. Starting in August, an hour-long, monthly meeting with CWDA and counties will be dedicated to discussing the new system.
  • A publicly available Sandbox will be available later this year to provide all county users visibility into the functionality of the new system.  The CWDS Implementation Team will work directly with counties, with an implementation lead assigned to guide and support implementation activities.
  • Policy questions, such as what impact pending legislation will have on the new system, are actively being coordinated between the County Welfare Directors Association (CWDA), the Department of Social Services and legislative staff at the State Capitol.   While project staff stays abreast of policy developments, CWDS developers, designers and managers are keenly focused on producing software to reach full system functionality by 2020, built on a modern platform designed for continuous future enhancements.

Why We Do What We Do

For many of us at Child Welfare Digital Services (CWDS), the names and stories of specific children remind us of why a new Child Welfare information system matters. However, not everyone at CWDS has personally known an at-risk child who had to leave a place he or she knows — right or wrong — as “home,” or tried to help that same traumatized child adjust to a new place in the care of strangers with unfamiliar rules and expectations. Nonetheless, we share a mission to support continuous quality improvement of California’s delivery of Child Welfare Services.

Child Welfare Services encompass the following objectives:

  • Prevent abuse and strengthen families
  • Remedy the effects of abuse or neglect
  • Provide for out-of-home care for children (foster care and relative home placements)
  • Provide for permanent alternatives for children from abusive homes (adoptions, legal guardianship, Kinship Care)

Child Welfare professionals help children whose living situation has become unsafe and dangerous.  These dedicated and hard-working people either attempt to stabilize the situation into one that is safe and appropriate for the child, supporting the child’s family with resources that prevent reoccurrence of the dangerous situation, or they have to make the hard decision to move a child to place where he or she will be safe.

In 2016, there were 494,062 reported allegations of child maltreatment in California. Of those, 70,859 were substantiated. That means that in 2016, approximately 8 children out of every 1,000 children in California were victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

During that same period, 53,749 were taken into “out-of-home” care. Of that number, we can expect one third to be in a permanent living situation within a year. A little over two-thirds will “achieve permanency” in two years. For the 32 percent of children in care who are between the ages of 1-5 years old, that’s nearly a lifetime.

Source: Center for Social Services Research University of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare

Source: Center for Social Services Research University of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare

Research shows that sustained periods of instability and uncertainty for a child can damage his or her ability to weather the rest of life’s ordinary challenges in a healthy way. Children who experience continuing trauma often find it harder to make constructive contributions to our shared future and society.

So how does a new information system help?

It might not be obvious how replacing the antiquated systems currently used to track Child Welfare Services and outcomes will make a difference to the real life children represented by these statistics. We do know more computing isn’t the answer. But freeing up dedicated and skilled Child Welfare professionals to interact and engage fully with the children and families they’re serving could be. We see and hear it in our user research now: Currently, Child Welfare professionals spend way too much time filling out forms or inputting data into disconnected and duplicative systems, just to keep track of their caseloads and meet reporting requirements.

Data management and analytics are essential to understanding and improving the ways we provide Child Welfare Services to achieve the goals of child and family safety, well-being, and permanency. A new system that is better at capturing and managing data will give Child Welfare agencies better information about what interventions have the best results. And that’s worthwhile.

But our most compelling vision for the new system we are building is that it will be technology that gets out of the way and frees up social workers to do what only they can do. That’s how we at CWDS will make a difference to real life children. When we’re successful, we’ll give their caseworkers more time to protect them from harm, to ensure that they are in safe, loving and permanent homes, or to support their families into healthy relationship.

If you would like to see what we are building, follow our progress at  If you would like to be part of building it, watch our Job Opportunities at

About the Author:   Phoebe DeMund is the Service Manager for the Certification, Approval, and Licensing Service (CALS)


Core Counties Train for Usability Testing

This week, county users were in Sacramento for important training on the CWDS Intake Module.  Guided by user-centered design principles, each digital service works with teams from six counties, designated as Core Counties, to help design the system and inform important decisions.

Core County representatives spent two days at CWDS headquarters learning how to conduct research and usability testing, skills they will  take to the field to gather user behavior patterns that will help the design process.

As subject matter experts with years of experience working as case workers, Core County representatives are considered part of the CWDS project team.  They represent the user community throughout all 58 counties.  By the end of the project, most counties will have had a chance to serve as a Core County working on one of the eight modules.

The Intake Module covers the spectrum of Emergency Response – from the time a report of child abuse comes into the hotline through the work done by a CPS social worker to investigate these allegations of child abuse and neglect.

Workspace Innovation

Child Welfare Digital Services (CWDS) occupies a campus in Sacramento that we have expressly built to maximize collaboration and reduce costs. CWDS worked with the California Department of General Services Real Estate Leasing and Planning Section to design a workspace that would be conducive to the needs of agile development teams at equal or lower cost than traditional office build-outs.

When we started organizing CWDS, we decided that one of the really important barriers we had to overcome is that staff don’t collaborate in the public sector the way they do in the private sector. So we had to look at the environment: our office. People need to have the mobility to move around and participate in conversations, participate in working design sessions, and be able to carve out time for themselves to do their own personal work.

One of the things I really want our organization to do is to own its own destiny. We put together a design team and we asked them to come up with ideas. They chose “innovation” and “fun” as themes. For our big collaborative work spaces, they selected the names of famous innovators such as Nicola Tesla and others who we thought had done something amazing. They also recognized that we need to have fun in the workplace. So it is this mixture of serious innovation and serious fun.

I see that conversation is occurring as a part of the natural dynamics every day. That makes me think we are on the right path to collaboration and increased productivity as a mainstay of our workspace.

About the Author: Peter Kelly is Chief Deputy Director for the Office of Systems Integration.

New Vendors Selected for Agile Development Pre-Qualified Vendor Pool

The California Department of Technology has announced the selection of 13 vendors who are now part of the State’s expanded Agile Development Pre-Qualified (ADPQ) vendor pool. Along with 11 companies that were previously selected in 2016 when the vendor pool was initially created, there are now 24 vendors eligible to bid on opportunities for agile and user-centered design services. Read more about the establishment of the ADPQ vendor pool on our website: While CWDS has been the first state organization to use the vendor pool for the development of the Child Welfare Services – New System (CWS-NS) project, CDT expanded the pool to increase competition and allow all state agencies and departments to use it. Read the Notification of Selection here.

CWDS to Issue RFOs for Implementation Services

As part of an overall strategy to help counties prepare to transition from the legacy Child Welfare Services/Case Management System, Child Welfare Digital Services (CWDS) will be releasing four solicitations for implementation services, including organizational change management, training development, training delivery and implementation services.

Since January 2017, OnCore Consulting has been the implementation contractor for Intake Services, one of the five digital services within CWDS.

Rather than procuring services of another single vendor to cover implementation in its entirety for the remaining digital services, CWDS will release four separate RFOs for the following disciplines of work:

  • Implementation Services: Plans, manages, and oversees all implementation through coordination, communication, and readiness activities. Provides schedule management for implementation-specific activities at project, state, county, and tribal levels and includes Organizational Change Management (OCM), Training Development and Training Delivery Contractors.
  • OCM: Develops, delivers and maintains OCM materials, reviews and updates existing OCM templates and OCM processes.
  • Training Development: Analyzes, designs, develops, maintains, and updates a complete system training program suitable for a physical and virtual training environment.
  • Training Delivery: Plans, prepares, evaluates, schedules, and delivers Train-the-Trainer training to approximately 250 state, county, and Regional Training Academy staff at least once a quarter or for a major release based on the materials provided by the Training Development Contractor.

Splitting traditional implementation services over four contracts allows vendors to provide services in their areas of expertise. If a vendor submits an offer for one solicitation, the offer does not preclude that vendor from submitting on the other solicitations.  The successful vendor(s) will assist with the implementation of Digital Services such as CALS and Case Management, of which the user community consists of over 25,000 county and state staff.

Counties will continue to have one point of contact within CWDS for all implementation activities and services.

Visit the CWDS vendor page for more information on procurement: