The advent of web-based database systems, along with continued increases in computerized case management systems, has greatly increased the prospect of using technology to support program management, case management, and evaluation. Through technological advances, these systems can be designed to facilitate case management tasks and programmatic reporting while providing a wealth of easily accessible data for evaluators. Program staff may already use computers for client intake and initial assessments, service plans, service usage, client characteristics, and client progress. Evaluators, in turn, can aggregate and analyze the data entered across the client population. Even given the potential efficiencies in evaluation that technology brings, program staff, program leadership, and evaluators must work together closely during the design phase so that the system does not create unnecessary hardships for program staff and make them less inclined to use it.
The use of web-based technology has been a unique aspect of Massachusetts's Adoption Crossroads program. The program used a web-based database system, built by a local social services provider, as a case management and evaluation tool (initially, the system was not linked). Eventually it became a web-based system that caseworkers in each region could access through the Internet to record case opening and closing information, service usage, and contacts. The database also informed program operations on an ongoing basis through a reporting function that produced monthly tallies of case statistics, number of calls and reasons for calling, services provided, and third-party billing and fundraising activities. The program evaluators used the database because it allowed for analysis of information and referral services and service utilization data, and it provided a list of clients to survey regarding satisfaction with services received. Additionally, the evaluators felt it supported their analysis of whether the goals identified in the information and referral process were attained chap151; a basic outcome measure.