Washington meets information demand
- By Brian Robinson
- Apr 17, 2002
The state of Washington's Department of Information Services (DIS) has provided
government agencies with video and multimedia capabilities since 1992, and
has been offering Webcasting as one of its regular services since July 2001.
The state's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has found
the Webcasts particularly useful for its foster parenting program, in which
it has to provide regular workshops on such things as fetal alcohol syndrome,
brain development and behavioral change.
"We originally generated products for broadcast by satellite," said
Carolyn Jones, DSHS program manager. "But that cost us $1,200 for each broadcast
to each remote location, and the foster parents had to be able to travel
to a studio to see it."
Webcasting has changed to way the department does things. In addition
to the satellite broadcasts, DSHS now produces workshops designed for streaming
over the Web. Foster parents use computers to participate in the workshops
in real time, using e-mail to interact with the instructor.
But one of the biggest attractions, according to Jones, has been the
on-demand service enabled by archiving the workshops. Foster parents now
can view the workshops when their time permits and — in a scenario that
all parents would gratefully acknowledge — one parent in a household can
watch the workshop while the other cares for the children.
"If it weren't for the Webcasts, we would have to beef up our land-based
training," Jones said. "But foster parents would still have to travel to
The DSHS Webcast program has generated even more interest than the department
thought it would. The DSHS Web site has been getting about 150 hits a month
from people who have viewed the Webcasts and say they want to become foster
parents, Jones said, and many of those have come from out of state. People
from as far away as Florida have asked for course certificates from the
DSHS to show they have actually watched the workshops.
And in what might be the ultimate compliment, people in New Zealand
who viewed the Webcasts have asked DSHS to put on a workshop about preventing
false allegations by children against foster parents.
"There's been so much interest that we are actually thinking of ways
we might be able to charge something for this [out-of-state] service," said
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.