An understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technology-based solutions to Child Protective Services : using a knowledge-based and process-oriented mediation model
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One important research direction that has emerged in Child Protective Services (CPS) is the potential of information technology (IT) to be used by CPS agencies in order to enhance organizational effectiveness by addressing the barriers that caseworkers face in integrating multiple stakeholders’ knowledge. Based on empirical findings with regard to numerous unsuccessful IT development initiatives, the present study strives to gain an in-depth understanding of the research question: How can CPS caseworkers be supported by their agency in the integration of knowledge resources, thereby contributing to organizational effectiveness? A literature review to answer this question revealed the following two major research gaps: the adoption of a technology-focused perspective of intervention and the use of direct research models to evaluate this kind of intervention. In order to bridge these research gaps, this study presented a knowledge-based and process-oriented mediation model, built around the concept of knowledge integration that involves related processes at the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic levels. In this model, a process-oriented Knowledge Management System (KMS) stemming from a Socio-Technical System (STS) perspective was proposed as an alternative intervention model consisting of knowledge management intervention in three dimensions: techno-structural, socio-cultural, and inter-organizational practices. This mediation model partitions the effect of this KMS on outcome (organizational effectiveness) into two components: the direct effect and the indirect effect that is mediated by its output (a CPS caseworker’s knowledge integration ability). This research model was empirically tested using Structural Equation Modeling. This analysis used a sub-set of the 2008 Survey of Organizational Excellence (SOE) data set, which includes the perceptions of CPS caseworkers in the Texas DFPS about their work environment. Results indicate that each of the three dimensions of knowledge management practices enhanced a CPS caseworker’s knowledge integration ability. This ability was a critical factor in determining organizational effectiveness. The mediation effects of a caseworker’s knowledge integration ability were found to mediate the relationship between three dimensions of knowledge management practices and organizational effectiveness. Overall, this mediation model was more useful in explaining the complex relationships among the variables of interest than other direct models.