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38 Pages

Child Welfare Information Services, Inc. (CWIS)

For the CWIS venture, and Joe Gavrin, there could not have been a better public sector ally than Barbara Blum. As an analyst, she was sympathetic to the goals of information and planning, and as a rationalist with no particular axe to grind, she understood the virtues of a jointly sponsored effort between the public and voluntary sectors. The combined efforts of "believers" in rational planning, such as Gavrin and Blum, enabled the anchoring of CWIS in a sea of narrowly defined interests and skepticism. This sea was never a calm one, and once CWIS was officially launched, the navigation depended largely on Bob Gundersen, the executive director. Gundersen was an "in-house" candidate for the directorship, having been hired by Gavrin as a staff member to work on the CWIS project under COVCCA. Familiarity with the goals of social work and the needs of administrators were Gundersen's strengths. By his own reckoning: "My primary concern is not with data processing or information systems per se, but with the management of human delivery systems." He would hire a competent technical staff to master the nuances of data collection and programming. In view of the problems involved in managing a corporation like CWIS, jointly controlled by the public and voluntary sectors, Gundersen's identification with social work and his leaning toward the administrative rather than technical aspects of the enterprise may have been advantageous, though problems lay ahead in both spheres. Looking back from 1978, Gavrin viewed Gundersen's stewardship as a success. If he had a serious fault, Gavrin noted, it was that he was too much the optimist, down-playing problems and latent hostilities and not acting on them soon enough.