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DECSYS: Automating Collaboration

photo of Colorado Alliance For Drug Endangered Children banner

The Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (Colorado DEC) will soon begin implementing the Drug Endangered Children Tracking System (DECSYS) in Wisconsin and Nevada, with plans to expand to Tennessee, Oklahoma, and West Virginia before August 2013.

DECSYS, a web-based information sharing system between law enforcement and child welfare agencies, was originally piloted in six counties across Colorado. The system is automated, which means the information shared between the two agencies is predictable, reliable, and measurable. In addition, the system adds accountability, and encourages institutional change by making increased communication part of the way agencies conduct business.

One of the most notable features of DECSYS is its ease of use. It takes less than five minutes for a law enforcement officer or child welfare professional to enter case information. Agencies currently using DECSYS are seeing an increase in communication, which in turn results in improved collaboration. It also results in the identification of more children in need of services, particularly those children who were not on the scene at the time of the arrest.

image of little girl blowing bubblesIn fact, during the two-year six-county pilot in Colorado, 60 percent of children identified through DECSYS were not present at the scene at the time of the arrest, meaning DECSYS was responsible for a 150 percent increase in the number of children brought to the attention of child welfare. These results suggest that most drug endangered children are not present at the scene during a caregiver’s arrest, making it even more difficult to make the appropriate referrals and identify the children for any future risk. But with an easily accessible and automated system like DECSYS, children who may have otherwise gone unnoticed will be identified and get the resources they need.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) awarded Colorado DEC a grant to expand the DECSYS system to five states across the nation by August 2013. The DECSYS project was announced to the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children’s (National DEC) state DEC alliances and the interested members were invited to attend an informational webinar, at the end of which the attendees were asked to fill out a survey to ascertain the state’s capacities.

image of little girl smelling flowersTo categorize the information from the surveys, Colorado DEC staff, National DEC staff, and a representative from the COPS Office developed selection criteria. The criteria were related to DECSYS compatibility, available resources, and statewide reach. States were scored and ranked based on the information the applicants provided and were assessed on their compatibility with these criteria and implementation readiness. Key considerations for the top-ranked states were their ability to implement the system statewide and secure resources necessary to sustain the DECSYS system past this grant. Following this process, phone interviews were held with the top ranking states and the first states were selected. The next group of states had phone interviews and based on that information, they were given development areas to work on over the next couple of months. Upon follow-up, the last group of states went through another selection process similar to the initial one and the final states were selected.

The project specifically covers the development of the documentation process and of the administrative tools. Even though there were states that were not selected to participate in this grant period, there will be lasting tools beyond this grant. These tools will be made available and can be leveraged by states who would like to implement DECSYS in the future.

The following section is a closer look into the final selected states:

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Alliance for Drug Endangered Children is housed in the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. Wisconsin has taken a very strategic approach in promoting DEC statewide through the creation of multiple local DEC alliances with signed protocols, thus laying the ground work to make DECSYS a natural fit for implementation.

Nevada: The Nevada Alliance for Drug Endangered Children operates through the Nevada Attorney General’s Office. Due to the great relationships built within the state from department heads to the practitioners in the field, it was clear from the start that the DECSYS system would be a welcome addition to the DEC efforts in Nevada.

Tennessee: The Tennessee Alliance for Drug Endangered Children is a broad partnership among multiple state and local agencies across the state. Due to the broad reach of the DEC efforts and a strategic approach to educating users on the DECSYS system at upcoming conferences and trainings, it quickly became clear that the practitioners in Tennessee were ready to implement the DECSYS system, beginning in Cumberland County.

Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Alliance for Drug Endangered Children is based in the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. Partners at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and the Department of Human Services recognize the benefits the DECSYS system brings by identifying more children. They have the technological understanding and dedication to make DECSYS a success in their state.

West Virginia: The West Virginia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children is housed at the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute. Since 2008, WV DEC has met quarterly to assess what is happening in the field with drug endangered children and to provide training on emerging issues. Due to the strong connections throughout the state and the recognition of the benefits of the DECSYS system, WVDEC was a natural selection for the program.

With the strength of the DEC Alliances within the states, the widespread state knowledge about drug endangered children, and highly motivated champions, the DECSYS system has a solid starting foundation in each of these states to help identify a greater number of children for years to come.

Jade Woodard
Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children

Susannah Carroll
National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children

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