By Adeney Zo
UCLA Luskin student writer
Social Welfare Professor Bridget Freisthler and the UCLA Spatial Analysis Lab recently released a research brief analyzing user data for Freisthler’s “Needs Portal” program.
Freisthler and her team of doctoral students created the Needs Portal for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in order to provide an online real-time service linking case workers to agencies willing to offer requested resources. Prior to the development of this program, families involved in child welfare would receive a print brochure of available agencies, information which would quickly become outdated with any change in the listed agencies.
With the Needs Portal, caseworkers can instantly access updated information on the closest agencies, post requests for specific needs by opening “tickets”, and link families to a list of available service providers. Regardless of experience and their personal knowledge of agencies, caseworkers can now use the portal to access a database of information not widely available to social workers before.
The research brief released April 7 analyzed the Needs Portal’s usage through a census of service request tickets that were closed by February 28, 2015. The results were divided into three overall service categories: Psychosocial, Basic Needs, and Well-Being services. The results show that caseworkers made the highest number of requests for Psychosocial services through the Portal and, in turn, received the most comments from willing service providers. This stands to reason that the most traditionally recognized needs of those in the child welfare system are psychosocial.
Results from the Basic Needs category landed in the middle, with the second-highest number of requests and comments, though housing requests received a much lower number of agency responses. Case workers made the least number of requests and received the least comment responses in the Well-Being category, despite the fact that these services may offer more long-term benefits for family development and self-sufficiency.
These data results will help the pilot program continue to improve and expand in order to reach more social workers and families in the future.
The full research brief can be found here.
Freisthler’s Needs Portal project was highlighted in greater depth in the summer 2014 issue of the Luskin Forum.