Health and Family Services Cabinet
Social services staff to receive upgraded technology; Rep. Lee, cabinet leadership promote new equipment
FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 1, 2006) – On home visits to investigate allegations of child abuse, Christy Riley used to carry an old, garage-sale bought Polaroid camera to document living conditions and any bruises or marks she noticed on children. The pictures were dark, and details were hard to discern.
Like other workers in her region, Riley, a child protective services worker in Hardin County’s Department for Community Based Services, had to use her personal cell phone to call in questions to supervisors or contact community partners for referrals.
“It was inconvenient, unreliable and expensive, using our own phones and cameras,” Riley said. “We tried to make do with what we had, but a photo of a child’s markings taken on your cell phone camera is just not admissible in court.”
Now, Riley and about 30 other child and adult protective services staff in the Lincoln Trail Service Region are equipped with a new electronic “tool kit” to help them better protect clients.
Riley and other staff from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services this week discussed the pilot that gave them the new technology -- a comprehensive electronics package that includes a cellular phone with maximum coverage area, a 5-megapixel digital camera with docking station and a small laptop.
“This has made a tangible difference in how we can serve customers,” Riley said. “We feel safer on our visits, we can communicate with our support staff more quickly and we can make more accurate family assessments.”
Eugene Foster, Ed.D., the cabinet’s undersecretary for children and family services; Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown; and Libby Trager, the Lincoln Trail Service Region’s administrator also spoke in favor of the tool kits.
“Caseworkers have long asked for this equipment to make their jobs safer and more efficient,” Foster said. “Many staff members have been using personal cell phones with spotty coverage to call for backup and decades-old instant cameras to document abuse and families’ living conditions. The lives of our vulnerable children and adults depend on these caseworkers. It’s time we invest in the tools they need to do their jobs.”
Foster said Lee’s support was instrumental in securing legislative funding for the equipment.
“Rep. Lee continues to champion human services and the changes we can affect,” he said. “Families in crisis will particularly benefit from smoother service as a result of his legislative work.”
Lee helped obtain $2.8 million for the cabinet’s tool kits in the state’s biennium budget.
Foster said the upgraded technology is part of an overall department modernization.
“To ensure better customer service, we are strengthening our staff resources and increasing our responsiveness to staff,” he said. “We are realigning our central offices, enhancing regional training opportunities and simplifying the family assessment and documentation processes for protective services workers.”
Protective services staff across the state are scheduled to begin receiving equipment this fall.
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