Latest Posts

CWDS Quarterly Legislature Update FY2017/18 Q1

Pursuant to AB1603, CWDS delivers a quarterly report to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. Click here to view the FY 2017/18 Q1 report. 

CWDS Speaker Series - Greg Elin

CWDS holds a monthly speaker series meeting to spark innovation and increase engagement. On Sept. 25 open government data expert, Greg Elin, presented at the meeting. Click here to view the video. 

Video: OSI Chief Deputy Discusses User-Centered Design with Techwire

Office of Systems Integration Chief Deputy Director Peter Kelly spoke with Techwire about user-centered design and the Child Welfare Digital Services project.  Watch the video below:

Join OSI! CWDS is Hiring a Service Desk Manager

Child Welfare Digital Services is looking for an experienced Service Desk Manager, classified as a Data Processing Manager II.  The position includes the opportunity to work on a wide variety of technologies while providing support to the Office of Systems Integration, Child Welfare Digital Services (CWDS) project Service Desk unit.

The newly created Service Desk Manager position has been established to plan, organize, and oversee the efforts of the service desk team that will support the new system used by county social workers across California.  The selected candidate will be responsible for leading the day-to-day operations of the Service Desk, delighting our end users, and meeting or exceeding service levels.  The Service Desk Manager will effectively communicate with customers, solve problems and work in a fast-paced environment.  The candidate must be able to manage their time effectively and work independently with minimal supervision.

Be a part of California’s largest, most innovative project, the spotlight of national focus as government changes the way it does business.

Learn more and apply for the position here.  See our job flyer here.

Intake Digital Service – The Present and Future

On September 11, our Intake Digital Services Team Manager, Wendy Christian and Product Owner, Jeff Dent provided an overview of their team’s efforts to date. They also presented future enhancements and functionality scheduled for upcoming releases.

Currently, we are finishing the development and testing of the child welfare history snapshot and hotline functionality. In the next development phase, we will be adding contacts and interfaces with Smarty Streets functionality. Contacts will be used primarily by CPS workers for case referrals and the Smarty Streets interfaces will allow social workers to check addresses and map out their day in a geographically user-friendly way. The goal is to provide tools that are designed so workers only need to enter data once and screens only the data worker’s actually need.

Once these products are developed they will go out to our Core County team members for further review and testing. The Core County users validate the design, direction and functionality of the modules and provide invaluable feedback before further development continues. This process ensures that the software that is ultimately deployed actually meets the needs of the users and saves time and money during the development cycle.

Future development cycles will feature investigations, including dispositions and outcomes, supervisory review and interfaces to our SDM Structured Decision Making (SDM) risk and safety assessments tools. Other future potential enhancements will provide more user-friendly tools to social workers like: genogram of relationships; timeline of child welfare history; improved search accuracy; duplicate reduction; criminal history integration; mental health integration; and equitable workload distribution among other improvements currently under discussion.

The chart below provides upcoming features over the next three Program Increments (PIs), which are three month phases that consist of 6 two-week sprints using agile methodologies.  PI-6 will conclude in Spring 2018.   For more details, see the entire September 11,2017 solution demo here.

How we put users at the heart of our work

The Child Welfare Digital Service (CWDS) is a groundbreaking collaborative, a mix of vendors and state technologists working together, using agile software development methods, with child welfare practice experts across the state. As a nonprofit social venture focused on improving outcomes for children and families, Case Commons is excited to join forces with the Technology Platform, DevOps, Policy, Data, Implementation and other CWDS teams to deliver the Intake Digital Service.

Case Commons is deeply invested in the state's commitment to user-centered design. User-centered design puts caseworkers and supervisors at the heart of our work. Meeting compliance and reporting requirements is, of course, crucial; our starting point, however, is the flow of work and organization of information that best support day-to-day operational decision making.

On past projects this user-centered approach has helped us measurably improve both practice fidelity and data quality. In Indiana, for example, we implemented, as key features of a new child welfare system, “embedded” operational metrics on caseworker dashboards; these metrics contributed to a 13.8% increase in the share of children seen by their caseworkers in the last 30 days, and an 81% increase in recorded visits between children and their birth parents.

What sets our work with CWDS apart is that the state has arranged an unprecedented level of direct access to our users. We began with intensive discovery, interviewing and shadowing caseworkers and supervisors across our six core counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Cruz, Fresno, Yolo and Butte. We not only listened to county users to understand their pain points and aspirations, but also observed them as they did their jobs - in the office and out in the field - to see the problems they didn’t think to share with us because they've become so used to them.

Such careful user research helps Wendy Christian, the Intake Digital Service Manager, and  Jeff Dent, the Intake Product Owner, rethink the Intake process and shape the Intake Product Roadmap []. The Product Roadmap evolves iteratively as we learn from our users. Much of that learning flows from numerous rounds of usability testing. A central goal of usability testing is to experiment, to challenge our ideas and gauge if we got it right or if we have further work to do. This means we put a prototype - either mockups or actual working software - into users’ hands and ask them to perform a series of tasks with it. Often users will talk out loud and explain what they are trying to accomplish as they play with the prototype. Between that narration and what we observe, we glean rich and nuanced information. Wherever the user struggles we spot opportunities to improve, because we're testing the design, not the user, after all. We regularly share summaries of our usability testing findings at Sprint Reviews and other checkpoints with core county representatives. Here is an example report on some testing, involving 149 users in 6 counties, we conducted earlier this year:


How are we able to reach out to and do testing with so many users? The answer brings us to the most exciting aspect of our approach to user-centered design: Our core county representatives (13, across 6 counties) not only coordinate site visits, but also, after a bit of training and practice, conduct the testing themselves! Because of their backgrounds in social work they are great listeners, exceptional testers and full partners in design thinking. They make sure caseworkers and supervisors stay right where they belong: at the heart of our work.

Core County Representatives Show Their Skill at Conducting Usability Testing


Case Commons is privileged to be part of CWDS, working in partnership with a mix of vendors to deliver an open source digital service for California’s child welfare system. Case Commons is a nonprofit social venture. We build user-centered software for human services. Our motto is “Helping the helpers.” Our mission is to promote best practice and improve outcomes for at-need children, families and populations.

CWDS Update: August 2017

Child Welfare Digital Services produces a monthly report for the Legislature and stakeholders to follow as the project works to replace the CMS/CWS legacy system.

Read the August 2017 report online: CWDS Update August 2017

Video: CWDS Solution Demo: September 11, 2017

CWDS conducts monthly Solution Demonstrations to provide all stakeholders with an overview of the latest system developments.

Watch the video archive of the September 11, 2107 Solution Demo below.

Want real-time updates from CWDS? Follow us!

Now more than ever, CWDS is focusing on our social media channels for sharing information in real-time with our stakeholders and the general public. In the spirit of Agile methodology and project transparency, we are using social media as way to reach more people, more quickly, every day.

Whether you work on the project, or serve on the front line protecting children in one of California's 58 counties, you can keep up our efforts to replace the CWS / CMS system by following us on Twitter @ca_cwds, Facebook and LinkedIn

Moreover, vendors looking for information on current solicitations, state employees looking for promotional opportunities, other stakeholders interested in our latest project reports or social workers wanting to see our most recent CWDS developments can find this information by following us on our social media channels.

We also produce and host a variety of project-related videos on our CWDS YouTube channel. If you’re looking for more in-depth project content including system demonstrations and stakeholder meetings, please subscribe to our YouTube channel at

CWDS Seeks Scrum Master and Project Management Lead

Child Welfare Digital Services is hiring a Scrum Master and Project Management Lead (both positions classified as Senior Information Systems Analysts) to work in the Project Management Office (PMO). Learn more about the positions here.