As the world navigates the COVID-19 crisis, technology and the way we communicate has become more impactful than ever. Chief Information Officer Alethea Pratt has been with Children’s Aid since 2013 and has “always been on the lookout for some sort of disaster.”
When the city went on lockdown, Alethea initiated an IT “war plan.” Originally, the department provided equipment, VPN access, and training to 130-plus people, including fiscal and payroll; and obtained 250 free GoToMeeting licenses to streamline communication and make meetings more efficient. As more than 2,000 staff across 40 sites maneuvered a new normal, IT supported the transition promptly and seamlessly.
The dedicated team of just 15 people is responsible for all technology across the agency including computers, phones, and laptops. But they also manage two highly secure sites in the Bronx and New Jersey. These two locations store “behind the scenes” equipment like routers, servers, switches, and huge storage and network devices. These two places are the heart of our internet security and connection. If one site fails, it automatically exchanges power to the other facility – keeping us safe and prepared.
Working remotely isn’t unusual for IT but their effort is usually unseen. “If we see a major blast of viruses coming out, we take action to stop it and nobody knows about it – it’s routine,” said Alethea. “We also have to be disciplined, as equipment isn’t very forgiving.”
Thanks to the commitment and speedy work by IT, our essential services are able to operate while complying with social distancing guidelines. Our behavioral health team is now fully operational for tele-mental health services, including psychiatric evaluations, and our child welfare staff are continuing visits, counseling services, and monitoring of our families of nearly 700 children in family, therapeutical, and medical foster care.
As Children’s Aid endures a long journey ahead, IT continues to support staff and monitor the network, applications, storage, and security. “We’re here all the time, we’re responsive, and we’re are always available,” said Alethea.