Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

LA County DCFS Achieves Call Center Reliability and 40% Cost Savings on AWS

2021

As one of the largest county-administered child welfare agencies in the United States, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) serves more than 35,000 children in crisis. Its Child Protection Hotline was receiving over 220,000 calls every year, challenging the department’s aging, on-premises infrastructure. The servers that previously hosted its online reporting system—which supports email, fax, and telephone reports—were costly to maintain and posed the risk of outages during California’s frequent wildfires and other natural disasters. Avoiding system downtime is essential to helping children and advancing its mission, so DCFS opted to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) and migrated to Amazon Connect, a simple-to-use omnichannel cloud contact center.

By migrating to the cloud, DCFS gained the reliability and cost savings it sought, using an array of AWS services and features to boost operational efficiency. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team needed a way to work from home while still delivering services without disruption. Using Amazon Connect, the DCFS team gained secure, 24/7 access to the system from home, enabling it to continue serving children and families. “Speed is of the essence. We are constantly evolving and moving forward because it’s the only way to really keep kids safe,” says Carlos Torres, division chief for the Child Protection Hotline.

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Working alongside AWS teams is beyond anything I have experienced in my career. We have peace of mind knowing they are capable and willing to do whatever it takes to maximize our system’s effectiveness.”

Bobby Cagle
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

Migrating Its Life-Saving Call Center to Amazon Connect

DCFS covers an area of nearly 6,000 square miles with 10 million residents and employs nearly 9,000 employees, including social workers who follow up on calls reporting child abuse and neglect. Calls to the agency’s Child Protection Hotline are also forwarded to other stakeholders—such as the state and the county’s Probation Department, Department of Mental Health, and 48 police departments—who take steps to protect children’s safety.

However, DCFS relied on an on-premises private branch exchange system, a telephone system not connected to a data network, which lacked the flexibility the department needed. Running outdated on-premises infrastructure cost $50,000 per month, posed the risk of downtime during server maintenance, and offered little flexibility for workers in the event of an emergency—such as the bomb scare in 2013 that required staff to relocate to a backup call center, causing hours of downtime. In addition, call center employees needed to be onsite to work, and they faced limitations such as limited visibility into call volume. “After coming to DCFS in 2017, I said, ‘We have to switch to the cloud,’” says Bobby Cagle, director of DCFS. “The limitations of our analog system put children at grave risk because we are the front door to public concerns regarding those children.”

After conducting a search of options in the marketplace, DCFS chose AWS. Ease of use, cost efficiency, and the ability to migrate with no system downtime were all critical factors in the decision to move its call center to Amazon Connect. DCFS wanted the greater control and flexible options Amazon Connect enables—including the ability to reroute calls and generate transcripts that shorten the time it takes to review each call. Finally, customer support was essential, given the urgency of DCFS’s mission. “Working alongside AWS teams is beyond anything I have experienced in my career,” says Cagle. “We have peace of mind knowing they are capable and willing to do whatever it takes to maximize our system’s effectiveness.”

Optimizing Call Center Operations Using AWS Services

When California issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DCFS commenced its migration to Amazon Connect and was able to begin working remotely by June. The agency ported its telephone number to Amazon Connect by July 15 and remained operational throughout the migration. As of 2021, 80 percent of staff work from home. “For us to begin testing within weeks, get the 161 social workers who answer the phone and their 27 supervisors trained, get everything ready, and go live in less than 4 months was phenomenal,” says Torres. “Child safety is about efficiency, and any child abuse call that is not answered in a timely manner is a possible child safety issue. Moving quickly during this critical time enabled our staff to work safely from home and keep supporting kids and families during the COVID-19 pandemic without disruption.”

Migrating to Amazon Connect enabled DCFS to realize cost savings of about $20,000 per month: a 40 percent improvement. The agency was also able to achieve better security—an important concern, given the amount of personally identifiable information and sensitive data it handles—by controlling levels of access and storing call information in a secure cloud database.

The agency will soon be able to perform call audits to analyze aggregate data and use that information to train agents in protocols such as identifying themselves and asking about a caller’s history. And because Amazon Connect makes it simple to track how many calls are coming in and when, as well as whether calls are answered or dropped, contact center managers can predict future demand and staffing for its busiest times and follow up on missed calls across DCFS’s 19 regional offices. “The county is much more capable with this system in place,” says Cagle. “We can handle whatever disaster might occur, recover quickly, and continue serving the public.”

Serving as a National Child Welfare Call Center Model

Since migrating to Amazon Connect, DCFS has achieved the greater cost efficiency, flexibility, and reliability it needs to fulfill its critical mission: serving Los Angeles County’s children and families in virtually any contingency. The agency has also seen gains for its employees as a result of working from home, including higher morale, fewer sick days, and less time spent on building management. “There are so many intangibles,” says Torres. “I haven’t received a grievance from the union in over a year because workers are happier.” Going forward, DCFS plans to use AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service, and Amazon Lex, a service for building conversational interfaces into any application, to accomplish task automation—including answering callers’ simple questions—and remove pressure from busy agents.

Now a national model for similar agencies, DCFS gets regular requests to demonstrate its new telephone system. On a local level, DCFS’s model is also serving as a blueprint as Los Angeles County moves forward with unifying, streamlining, and focusing its entire service delivery model. “Scaling how we handle our crisis response for a county of 10 million people—that’s pretty amazing,” says Cagle. “AWS technology is laying the path for us to do that, and I think this is going to be truly revolutionary for our county in many different respects, in addition to child welfare.”


Listen to Bobbly Cagle, director of Los Angeles DCFS, on the AWS Fix This podcast.


About Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

The Los Angeles County DCFS promotes child safety and well-being by partnering with communities to strengthen families, keeping children at home whenever possible and connecting them with stable, loving homes in times of need.

Benefits of AWS

  • Migrated its call center to the cloud with zero downtime
  • Reduced monthly operational costs by 40%
  • Enabled 80% of staff to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Gained call center reliability in the event of a disaster
  • Improved security of sensitive call data
  • Used data analytics to improve call center management
  • Achieved benefits for staff, including higher morale and fewer grievances

AWS Services Used

Amazon Connect

Amazon Connect is an easy to use omnichannel cloud contact center that helps you provide superior customer service at a lower cost.

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AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing runtimes.

Learn more »

Amazon Lex

Amazon Lex is a service for building conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text.

Learn more »


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