CWDS Reaches Milestone of First Software Release

Child Welfare Digital Services (CWDS) has reached a major milestone, delivering the project’s first software release for testing and technical feasibility to a small subset of county users. The Intake Digital Service team has developed the ability for end users to securely log on to the CWS-New System, as well as the ability to search for people. The new search functionality is far more powerful than the legacy system, and with user testing and feedback, it will enhance case workers’ ability to more quickly locate individuals in the child welfare system.

“We have reached a significant technical milestone, building the foundation to deliver state-of-the-art digital services and connecting the legacy database to our new platform that will provide modern tools for case workers to help protect children,” said Project Director Tony Fortenberry.

For this software release, the Intake Core County team members include Butte, Yolo, Santa Cruz, Fresno, Ventura, and Los Angeles. This small sample of end users will provide feedback and validate that the functionality is working properly, with the next step to include users in additional counties.

While seemingly limited in scope, these basic features require a complex technical foundation to allow the digital service to interact with the legacy CWS/CMS database in a production environment. This first release demonstrates that the underpinnings of the development strategy are sound, and will allow the project to ramp up additional functionality much more rapidly. In November of 2015, the project changed its development strategy from the traditional “waterfall” approach to using agile methodology, the first such major project in California state government to do so.

“We are actively delivering software much faster than we would have if we had stayed the course with the monolithic procurement and waterfall development model,” said Peter Kelly, OSI Chief Deputy Director. “By leveraging agile development methods, we are nimble and better able to meet the ever-changing needs of our end users."

The effort to replace the legacy CWS/CMS system began in 2002 with the CWS/CMS Strategic Plan to modernize the system, leading to the CWS Web project, approved in 2004. The California Legislature cancelled 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 2013. Late in 2015, the state chose to take the project in a different direction by cancelling its planned procurement of a single implementation vendor, which would not have delivered working software for end users until 2019, in favor of modular procurement and Agile software development that emphasizes user research, user experience (UX) design, and puts working software in the hands of users much sooner.