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April 1, 2011
Our Kids launches a digital pen to facilitate juvenile court proceedings

Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., has adopted the use of a digital pen in juvenile court proceedings involving foster children in their care.

Court documents account for 40 to 50 percent of the paperwork in the foster care system, and with approximately 3,000 foster children in its care in Miami and the Keys, Our Kids is committed to using technology to increase caseworker productivity and efficiency.

“Our success over the past two years with technological innovations — such as OK Connect and ASK — have inspired us to enter new frontiers in the juvenile court,” said Frances P. Allegra, CEO of Our Kids. “The use of a digital pen in the courtroom streamlines the collection of information and moves the foster child much quicker through the foster care system, ultimately ensuring their safety and overall welfare.”

Operating like a small laptop computer, the digital pen has a chip with a small camera that captures images of handwritten notes and converts the images to digital text. Each Children’s Legal Services attorney is assigned a digital pen, and using a “court memo” form — prefilled with relevant data about the case — the attorney makes notes and checks boxes to change the legal status of the child while in court. Once the hearing is complete, the CLS attorney touches a barcode on the form to upload the information to their Blackberry/PDA device. The information is securely and wirelessly transmitted to the State of Florida’s computer system and database. The original court memo then becomes a permanent part of the child’s legal case file, and the information is immediately accessible to Our Kids’ caseworkers and staff.

“CLS is fully embracing the PenPal technology to further maximize efficiencies and improve the quality of critical data,” said Donald J. Cannava, CLS deputy regional director for the Department of Children and Families. “Our partnership on this project with Our Kids has been a great example of the collaboration that is essential to our collective success in improving results for Florida’s dependent children.”

Our Kids tested the digital pen in the fall of 2010 with a group of approximately six CLS attorneys who had previously chosen to use the digital pen over a tablet computer. The digital pen is now available to 35 attorneys in Miami with an investment of about $10 per child.

“The return on investment on projects like this is priceless,” said Patricia Smith, CIO of Our Kids. “Children are safer in foster care. The workforce is more engaged and productive. The time in court is minimized for attorneys, case workers, and children, making the process much more efficient.”

[Revised: 12-22-2014]