When Jason Bays and his wife Nikki became foster parents in Michigan, they struggled to find a software system that would easily allow them to record their children’s daily activities and share those with caseworkers and other stakeholders on a child’s case.
After struggling with a few software programs for a while, Jason, whose career is in IT, decided to create his own program, which they’ve used for the last two years.
“When we started this project, it was for our own personal use,” said Bays. “We never really thought about making the product commercially available until the product had matured to the point, with so much ease of use and so many wonderful features, we knew it could benefit a lot more people and children.”
Earlier this month the couple launched the commercial version of FosterCare.Team. Designed specifically for the foster care community, the program can easily be used by foster parents, counselors, caseworkers, supervisors and agencies.
“The great thing about the system is it made communication so much easier,” Bays said. “We could put information, files, documents, and photos in one place and everyone on the team could access them as they had time. We could also get feedback from our care team as they had time to provide input.”
During the development process, Bays met with people in various roles at agencies to get input on functions in the program. The program meets a wide range of needs, allowing caseworkers to track a child’s progress at school, which a counselor may access to see what behaviors may be flaring up at school or home.
“I greatly appreciated utilizing FosterCare.Team,” said Jennifer Fedewa, adoption specialist with D.A. Blodgett St. John’s in Grand Rapids, Mich. “Whenever I had a few minutes, I could log on to obtain recent updates regarding the children instead of having to call or email the foster parents every week or every other week to find out about how the children were doing and to receive updates after medical appointments or school evaluations.”
Some of the features include journaling, behavior tracking, photo galleries, discussion forums, file management and a searchable data archive. A shared calendar makes it easy to track court dates, birth family visitations and other important dates.
One of the biggest challenges in the creation process was insuring that the program didn’t violate Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, which protect the privacy and security of individual’s health information.
“We’ve also addressed HIPPA concerns all the way up the deputy director of DHHS for a state, and there wasn’t a concern after everything was explained,” Bays said. “We wouldn’t be this far along with the product if there were any HIPAA-related concerns that we couldn’t address.”
The program cost just $3 or $9 a month for individual foster parent users depending on the level of support they want. For agencies, more modules are available, so the cost is $50 per caseworker per month, but other users at that agency like foster parents, counselors, GALs, CASAs and others don’t have to pay to tap into system. Bays said the expense is minimal when considering the amount saved by “boosting foster parent support and reducing foster parent turnover.”
“Our research shows that between the state and an agency, it typically costs $3,000 – $5,000 to recruit, train and license a single foster parent,” Bays said. “With foster parent turnover rates as high as 60 percent, that is a lot of money and resources that just walk out the door of the agency.”
FosterCare.Team can be found at https://fostercare.team.