The genesis of focused Federal support for statewide automated child welfare information systems (SACWIS) sprang from the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1993, enacted on August 19, 1993. That legislation provided states with the opportunity to obtain funding through the Title IV-E program of the Social Security Act to plan, design, develop, and implement a SACWIS. In exchange for the additional funding provided to a State that elects to implement a SACWIS, the State must agree that the SACWIS will be the sole case management automation tool used by all public and private social workers responsible for case management activities. Furthermore, staff are expected to enter all case management information into SACWIS so it holds a State's "official case record" - a complete, current, accurate, and unified case management history on all children and families served by the Title IV-B/IV-E State agency. Since the inception of the SACWIS program in 1993, 40 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to develop SACWIS systems. Twenty-seven of these systems are now operational.
Development of a SACWIS system is an extremely complex and costly project for a State to undertake and takes years to complete, from planning through development to final statewide implementation. For a complete SACWIS system the minimum planning and development time frame is about three to four years but often takes longer, sometimes extending to as much as five to ten years. This is attributable to the many difficult challenges involved in developing these systems, including factors such as:
- Conversion of data from multiple legacy information systems;
- Construction of multiple automated interfaces with external data systems; and
- Integration of multiple complex business processes, including casework services and planning, provider management, contracting, payment, and federal claiming.
Faced with these challenges, most states recognize that they do not have sufficient technical expertise and experience to successfully execute and manage a project of this scope and complexity, and they decide to procure the services of a software development company either to custom build the SACWIS system or to adapt a transfer solution.
Contracting with a software development vendor for this kind of project brings an additional set of challenges for states, including developing a comprehensive RFP, managing the procurement process, negotiating an effective contract, and managing the project to ensure that contract terms as well as federal and state requirements are fully met. Over the years there has been a growing recognition that to successfully manage a contract with a software development vendor on a SACWIS project, states need to contract with an experienced quality assurance (QA) and Independent verification and validation (IV&V) vendor. In fact, the federal agency overseeing the SACWIS program, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), has often required states to do this as a condition of funding their SACWIS development projects.
Such was the case in 2005 when the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) requested additional funding from ACF to complete a SACWIS system that had been in development and partial implementation since the mid 1990’s. The Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) contracted with SLI Global Solutions (then SysTest Labs) in December 2006 to provide quality assurance (QA) and independent verification and validation (IV&V) services for the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) Project. In this engagement, SLI was responsible for monitoring the progress of the project, assessing the compliance of all parties with the terms of the contract, advising the State of potential problems, recommending corrective action, and providing an independent source of information on the status of the Project for State and Federal decision makers.
On an extremely aggressive schedule, the project was able to successfully develop and implement the transfer solution proposed by the software development vendor within 26 months of project initiation to a user base of over 2000 Alabama DHR staff. The SLI QA/IV&V team focused on factors that enabled the project to avoid risk and achieve success through providing seasoned expertise in program, technical and project management. The contribution of the SLI QA/IV&V team to the success of this project has been acknowledged by both the executive management team of DHR and by the ACF representative for the State of Alabama.
"FACTS has been a successful project and this success was facilitated in no small measure by the SysTest staff. Throughout the project they have been constructive and flexible. Your able team...[has] been an asset to the project and a credit to your organization. My thanks to SysTest for being particularly easy to work with and for being willing to provide resources as needed in order to keep the project moving. This was a team effort and it paid off."--Thomas Bernier, Alabama FACTS (SACWIS) Director (retired) –