Four new tools that are helping protect vulnerable children

By Liz Enbysk, Smart Cities Council


We hear a lot about opioid addiction – but not so often about the connection between child abuse and neglect. Yet according to SAS, a leader in the field of analytics that works with government agencies to better understand data:

  • In the U.S. alone, 91 people die from opioid abuse each day. And a baby is born dependent on opioids every 19 minutes.

  • In Vermont, the number of children in the custody of the Department of Children and Families grew 40% over two years. A state survey found opioid use a factor in 80% of cases involving a child under age 3.

  • In Indiana, some 2,600 children were removed from homes due to parental drug abuse over a six-month period ending March 2016; that’s 71% more than two years earlier.

It's a similar story in North Carolina, where SAS is working with New Hanover County to identify and track risk factors for children.

"The intersection of opioid abuse and child abuse and neglect is threatening to overwhelm the system," said Wanda Marino, Assistant Director of New Hanover County DSS. "Case workers, investigators and law enforcement need to understand their data to intervene quickly and try and break this tragic cycle."

Identifying risk factors
The county is using SAS® Visual Investigator which, among other uses, helps uncover hidden trends and behaviors that flag danger to a child. 

By integrating data from criminal justice and public health databases into agency data, the system will alert DSS workers to relevant changes to risks affecting a child in their charge. It may be 911 calls from the home, arrests of family members, new individuals in the home, or new investigations. The tool's visual presentation helps caseworkers easily grasp what triggered an alert, drill into the case for details, and determine what interventions may be necessary.

Protecting against child identity theft
Children in foster care have been through enough in their young lives without having their identity and privacy breached. That's the thinking of the Community Based Care (CBC) of Central Florida which serves more than 3,000 children every day. 

As the lead agency for child welfare services in the region, CBC services include foster care. Children enter the foster care as a result of being abandoned, neglected or abused. CBC wanted to take steps to see to that the children in their system did not fall victim to another type of attack – a cyberattack. 

When working remotely, case workers require the ability to input and update the information of the children in their charge. Without adequate security measures, sensitive/personal information may be more vulnerable to hackers and identity theft.  In the case of children, identity theft can go undetected for years. 

CBC teamed with AT&T to help protect the children they help.

CBC was already using AT&T Virtual Private Network but wanted to ramp up its security even further. By adding AT&T Cloud Web Security and AT&T Threat Manager Log Analysis, they have taken a proactive approach to help protect all layers of their network.

"While these children and youth are under our care, we are committed to protecting all aspects of their lives," said Mark Monn, MIS Director for CBC.

Monitoring electronics use in schools
At a recent police technology forum in Canberra, Australia, the president of an Australian intelligence body suggested primary and high schools use software that logs students' keyboard use on computers and smartphones and takes screenshots.

Dr.  Philip Kowalick of the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers said the tool has alerted teachers and authorities in the UK to potential suicides as well as child grooming, bullying, domestic violence and radicalization, according to a Canberra Times report on the forum.

He also said the activity is legally admissible because students and parents agree to the installation.

"We're talking about technology that helps institutions protect vulnerable people by actively monitoring," Kowalick said.

It's worth noting that a web search of keylogging software turns up the potential for abuse and misuse.

Violence prevention in Vetoville
Violence against children and youth may be related to a host of issues within a community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a game-like experience to help raise awareness about the connection between violence and community issues and ultimately how planning and strategic action can help prevent violence before it happens.

As the CDC website explains: "The simulation puts you in the driver's seat of Vetoville. You can explore the town from the perspective of a 'special advisor' -- brought in to determine how to spend the town's limited resources to improve the quality of life for everyone who lives there.'

Participants can also see how the choices and investments they made play out 20 years later.  


Liz Enbysk is editor of the Smart Cities Council’s Compassionate Cities initiative, which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty.



To get connected and stay up-to-date with similar content from American City & County:
Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
Watch us on YouTube

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Viewpoints?

It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.


Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

Jason Axelrod

Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
Blog Archive
We use cookies to improve your website experience. To learn about our use of cookies and how you can manage your cookie settings, please see our Cookie Policy. By continuing to use the website, you consent to our use of cookies.