Baton Rouge: CAFÉ, an interactive application, is open for business across the state for individuals applying for, or those currently receiving, assistance from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
Common Access Front End, or CAFÉ, integrates DCFS systems across programs and allows clients to create an online account, check the status of their application, complete a "smart" application and submit redeterminations for continued support all from a single point of entry.
"CAFÉ is a step in transforming our department and the way we do business for our clients and our workers," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "CAFÉ unites multiple systems of client information and provides a single point of entry for client applications, redeterminations, case notes and client interviews. All combined, the functions of CAFÉ will provide for a more efficient process for clients and DCFS staff."
According to Johnson, DCFS clients across the state now can login to CAFÉ and create an account that will allow them to check the status of their applications or cases. Clients can apply or submit redeterminations online for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program, the Kinship Care Subsidy Program, and the Child Care Assistance Program.
In addition, DCFS staff now can conduct interactive interviews and input electronic case notes, which reduces duplicative data entry and key strokes. CAFÉ also includes an auto-routing feature that allows managers and supervisors to assign and distribute workers' caseloads on a regional, rather than a parish level according to staff availability.
Since CAFÉ opened statewide earlier this week, DCFS reports that more than 6,700 applications for assistance have been submitted, with 75 percent (5,074) of those being submitted online by clients themselves. Johnson said that in some areas individuals in rural communities have exceeded those in urban settings in using the online application.
"Before CAFÉ, our workers entered information in two separate systems for a single application, which required separate logins and toggling between two screens. With our previous system, DCFS workers had to re-enter the information submitted on their application online into our system. CAFÉ provides simultaneous access to both systems and syncs up the common information so that workers do not have to retype information that has been submitted. This provides more consistent information and makes work quicker and easier to complete," said Johnson.
Additionally, clients were required to complete a lengthy paper application or a manual application online. Previously DCFS had an online application that required clients to review every question on the 14 page paper application. With CAFÉ, the application is intuitive and only asks applicants questions that apply to them based on the previously entered information. CAFÉ also allows clients to login to their account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to check the status of their case, instead of visiting a physical office, waiting for a letter or making a phone call to determine their current status.
"Increasing access for our clients and making the process of applying for benefits more efficient is the goal of CAFÉ," said Johnson.
Johnson added that that is the first phase of the implementation of CAFÉ. Future phases will include additional features and capabilities. Later in the year, document imaging will be added, which will covert all client files to electronic case records. This will free up file room space that sometimes takes up to 15 percent of an office, as well as allow access to case files by DCFS staff anywhere in the state.
"Electronic case records will allow for equitable distribution of cases throughout the state. Our higher population areas will no longer be burdened by excessive caseloads, rather, cases can be distributed equitably around the state no matter the geographic origin," said Johnson.
The statewide launch of CAFÉ followed a successful pilot of the program in the Shreveport Region, which launched on February 26. Since the launch in the pilot region, more than 4,600 applications have been submitted, with 70 percent of those, 3,250 applications, being submitted by clients in CAFÉ. DCFS staff who piloted CAFÉ in the nine parish Shreveport area reported increased efficiency in processing applications and advantages of the electronic case notes features among other positive feedback.
To login to CAFÉ, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe. Computer access and assistance is available through DCFS' local community partners. For a complete list of community partners, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/partners or visit a DCFS office to access CAFÉ at a computer kiosk.