An unlikely software-as-a-service provider

An unlikely software-as-a-service provider

Children’s Bureau of Southern California is advancing its mission with the help of a hosting and compliance partner.

As a nonprofit agency focused on child abuse prevention and treatment, Children’s Bureau of Southern California is down in the trenches with families in need. For 110 years, the agency’s caseworkers have been directly assisting children and their parents to prevent abuse and improve the dynamics in the home. But to make the broadest and most significant impact, Children’s Bureau has long understood that it needs to provide air cover for the philanthropic troops on the ground.

“Our leaders have always been strategic, long-term thinkers,” says Sona Chandwani, CFO for Children’s Bureau. “And they’ve come up with some innovative ways to advance our mission.”

  • Two decades ago, agency leaders developed the Family Assessment Form© (FAF), an evaluation and reporting mechanism that helps standardize and improve the work that Children’s Bureau performs on behalf of children and their families.
  • The paper-based form was so successful the agency eventually turned it into a software tool (FAF Pro) that can be purchased and used by other agencies.
  • More recently, the tool was pushed to the cloud (FAF Web), eliminating the need for onsite infrastructure and making it easier for agencies to adopt.

So how does a nonprofit child welfare agency get into the software business?

“I ask myself that all the time,” Chandwani says with a laugh. “It’s like incubating a startup. Our resources are limited, and we can’t divert attention from our primary tasks. But we believe in the value of FAF, and its ability to help children and families.”

Seeking help with hosting, compliance
By selling the software as a service, Children’s Bureau can extend the benefits of FAF beyond its local territory and use the proceeds to fund its current and future programs. Chandwani sees it as a win-win-win for Children’s Bureau, like-minded agencies throughout the continent, and most importantly, the children and families they serve.  

But supporting a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model comes with challenges, especially for a nonprofit agency with limited resources and nominal software, infrastructure, and hosting knowhow.

  • The data contained in FAF Web is subject to HIPAA and other regulations, requiring rock-solid security and proof of compliance.
  • With an increasing number of Canadian agencies adopting FAF Web, Children’s Bureau has been forced to accommodate the regulatory requirements and oversight of two different countries. 

“The data we deal with is extremely sensitive, and everyone—from child welfare agencies to government entities to the families themselves—needs to feel confident that it is safe and secure,” explains Chandwani. “We also need to deliver a service that is easy to use, always available, and highly scalable.”

These are not Children’s Bureau’s core competencies, and tackling them internally would inevitably take time and resources away from the agency’s primary mission of helping children and families in Southern California. This is why FAF Web is now hosted by Sungard® Availability Services™ (Sungard AS), a Cisco Powered™ partner that offers cloud and managed services built on the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco Unified Computing System™.

“Sungard AS has been terrific,” Chandwani says. “They provide a secure environment, help enable HIPAA compliance, and have regional data centers that meet the regulatory requirements of Canadian agencies.”

With resistance to putting sensitive child and family data in the cloud being the biggest obstacle to growth, Chandwani says a proven and well-respected provider like Sungard AS gives a measure of comfort for agencies considering FAF Web. And as this resistance subsides, Sungard AS will have no problem supporting the increased adoption of FAF Web in the United States, Canada, and perhaps beyond.

“We are a small team, but the combination of SaaS model and reputable hosting provider is allowing us to have a big impact,” says Chandwani. “We’re helping cultivate stronger programs, better caseworkers, and healthier families.”

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