Banita Jacks and he daughters fell through many cracks in the maze of government-funded human services in the District of Columbia. Jacks sought help at least 23 times from 11 different agencies, but their separate information systems made it difficult for any of them to obtain a complete understanding of the family’s desperate plight. Federal marshals finally visited their row house, where the mother had been living with her dead daughters’ bodies for more than 7 months. At her trail, Jacks claimed the children were possessed by demons, and she is now serving a 120 year prision sentence.
The poorly intergrated systems ledt gaint information gaps that hampered agencies trying to help. For example, Child and Family Services received an anonymous hotline tip that the mother must be neglecting the girls, but since the agency didnt have any home address, no caseworker followed up. Other agencies had an address but their systems didnt track the complaint. Teachers at the girls’ school attempted unsuccessfuly to contact the family when they were absent, but they knew nothing about the neglect charge. Information wasn’t shared and service workers who hanled the family’s requests rarely followed up.
Althought this tragic case led to investigations and a round of firings, the real problem was in the information systems. Agency directors want to transform the way these systems work by implementing an intergrated information system to share data. The agencies need the dame kind of customer-centic system that private industries have when thet install customer relationship management (CRM) software. In a financial institution, for example, employees in ifferent departments might see individual events that could be warning signs pointing to a dissatisfied customer. The broker might know that the customer sold stocks and moved funds to a cash account, or the retirement counselor might receive a call from the same customer, inquiring how to roll over an IRA. With an intergrated system, these individual events will paint a picture so that companyresp can follow up
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