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Cabarrus Looks To Arm Social Workers With iPads

Tasnim Shamma

Social workers across the country are trading in their notepads for tablets. A handful of the state's counties have gone digital and now Cabarrus County is looking to join their ranks.  

The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners is considering a proposal to give county social workers iPads so that they can quickly access case and client information from the field.

Derrick Heath, director of Child Protective Services in Cabarrus County says his department is overflowing with paperwork.

"We're literally running out of space to put files because we keep our files for years," Heath says. 

For the last few years, he's been pushing the IT department to adopt newer technology. Earlier this week, he made his case in front of Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners for why they should spend $180,000 for 19 iPads and one year of training. The iPad would come installed with an app called Compass CoPilot that automatically syncs with their office database.

"It can make the workers more efficient out in the field to be able to take pictures of abuse and neglect issues, far as marks and bruises or if we have simple neglect, cases of drugs or dirty home, they can take those pictures and be attached to the case right there and send it back to the supervisor to make an on-the-spot decision as far as what to do as far as safety for the children," Heath says. 

In addition, the social worker could use it to record interviews with parents, access court documents and also skip a time-consuming process: scanning. He says it's common for CPS social workers to spend two to three hours scanning and filing their notes when they return to the office. And every time they need to look up a case whether they are in the office or in the field, they will now have access to an extensive history related to that family.

He says that will allow for better decision-making in cases where a child's life may be in danger. And he says he's also lost a few workers to Mecklenburg County, where better technology makes the job easier.  

Credit Tasnim Shamma
Ben Rose, director of Human Services for Cabarrus County, says the tablets and access to information will make the workers more efficient and better able to do their jobs.

Ben Rose, director of Human Services for the county, says the industry is changing and Cabarrus County is just trying to keep up.

"It is a field job and that access to information has always been limited," Rose says. "It's basically been their cellphone -- calling and having someone look it up and they're making critical safety decisions. So I think it is changing from that standpoint: trying to incorporate technology into an old-fashioned social work service in a lot of ways and it is a good merger I believe."  

Commissioners will vote on final approval of the contracts on December 16. Not every social worker will get one. This is a pilot program. If it's successful, Rose says, the county will look to expanding to the entire division.