What if your child welfare case file could talk?

Innovation, Social Services, Social Work, Technology, Child Welfare, Human Services

Social workers, imagine if a child’s case file could talk to you. What would you ask it? What hidden secrets would you want it to tell you about the kids you care so much about?

  • What has and hasn’t worked with previous caregivers? Where are the triggers?
  • Over the course of this child’s life, who has been a positive support?
  • What are all the different medications that have been tried on the child, and why?
  • Does the child do well in school? And if so, who is it that helps make that difference?
  • Most importantly, what is the one thing buried in the child’s history that will help me make tomorrow a much better day than today for this kiddo?

You would probably ask your case file thousands of questions. And then even more questions based on the answers to those questions. But would the answers you find allow you to feel empowered to make the right decisions? Would they help you understand not just what happened, but why or how it happened? Believe it or not, yes.

The challenge is that many of the answers are hidden in a sentence buried somewhere deep in a medical report, court document, email, or psychological report. The information is there, but its hidden. The technology gurus call this “dark data.” We call it a key piece of information that has the potential to change a child’s life—forever. 


The good news? You already have this information. You’ve been collecting it in your case files for years. You just need an easy, simplistic, and meaningful way to surface the answer to your question at just the right moment.

At Northwoods, we believe that the best predictor of a child’s future safety is a thorough understanding of the detailed past, including prior traumatic incidents, people connected to the family, and major events.

To help, we’ve figured out a way to use modern technology to make your case files answer your questions so you can uncover critical information to make informed, confident decisions.


Meet Traverse®
—the protective services case discovery platform from Northwoods.

Traverse automatically analyzes entire case files and shines light on this “dark data”—case content that is hidden or virtually impossible to retrieve—to uncover specific information about a case, including major topics, key events, people, and related entities.

Traverse allows human services agencies to leverage the information they already have—analyzing years of information and volumes of case records to build connections that may have otherwise gone unnoticed to make well informed, more confident decisions.

Social workers can view content, topic word clouds, and event timelines to quickly come up to speed on what has and is happening in the case to:

  • understand family and non-family connections, safety concerns, and strengths when investigating abuse or neglect;
  • quickly respond to on call and emergency situations;
  • find the best placement for children the first time to reduce the number of moves and trauma;
  • better prepare for court hearings, family team meetings, and adoption; and
  • identify and address community trends contributing to child maltreatment, such as mental illness or substance abuse.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out our full library of user stories and videos to see how Traverse empowers CPS investigators, on-call social workers, foster care caseworkers, court liaisons, protective services supervisors and program directors, and more with critical information quickly to make informed, confident decisions. 

Or, check out the tool for yourself.

About the Author
Rich Bowlen
Rich Bowlen
Rich Bowlen, Team Northwoods

Rich Bowlen’s goal is and always has been to give his very best day in and day out to do the most good for the most kids. Rich serves as the voice for children and families and connector between Northwoods’ customers and employees. He focuses on providing a true partnership with customers, while growing Northwoods’ protective services team and guiding how we develop, implement, and support products aimed at helping social workers make a difference.