Binti’s work in New Mexico

A letter from Binti’s CEO, Felicia Curcuru

Binti began working with New Mexico’s Children of Youth and Family Services (CYFD) in June of 2020. We’ve had positive, measurable results on children and we are excited to continue this work until all children have a safe, loving and supportive home environment. There have also been some questions that have come up that I wanted to address.

First, a quick background on Binti

I started Binti due to a personal connection. My sister adopted two children and it was a difficult, complicated process. I learned that there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the US and the outcomes for children aging out of foster care are sad. Roughly 50% of foster youth will be homeless at some point in their life. Also, more than half of foster youth will have experience with the criminal justice system by the time they are 17. I also learned there is a shortage of foster/adoptive families. It didn’t make sense to me that we desperately need more families and yet it’s so hard to become a foster/adoptive family.

When I spent time with families and social workers, I saw that many things were being done manually. Families were applying on paper to be foster/adoptive families and complained it was unwelcoming and burdensome. Workers were using 70 column excel spreadsheets to track families through the process. There were sticky notes and boxes of notecards. In addition to the team licensing families, other teams in child welfare were using similar manual processes. At first I thought it was because there wasn’t a budget for software in child welfare, but then I realized every state is spending millions or tens of millions of dollars each year on child welfare software. Each system is custom built and many of the projects fail or have huge time delays or cost overruns. Even though a lot of money is spent on the systems, most of the software is antiquated and even the newer software is often built around compliance and tracking data as opposed to empowering outcomes for children and families and saving social worker time.

I launched Binti in January of 2017 with the goal of building software that focuses on improving outcomes for children as opposed to just tracking data. We believe it’s possible for every child in the US to have a family. Binti’s first module, Licensing, makes it easy for families to apply online, instead of on paper, and we have tools for workers to approve families more easily. We’ve approved over 40,000 families and work in over 180 agencies in 27 states, serving over 22% of child welfare in the US. On average, when agencies work with Binti, they approve 80% more families per year than the prior year and they approve them 16% faster. We’re making a meaningful dent in the shortage of foster/adoptive families. Our second module, Placements, matches families with children, trying to keep siblings together, keep children in their school and community of origin, and more. We have additional modules focusing on other aspects of child welfare, including empowering prevention and reunification.

In addition to building software that empowers outcomes, we are also the pioneer for Software as a Service in child welfare. Instead of custom building a solution for each state, we study what’s the same and different across states, and then we build our platform in a way that we can quickly configure it to different states’ needs. This allows us to go live in 12 weeks instead of 3+ years. It is less risky because states can launch on something that is proven in other states. The system is better than any state can afford on their own, because we are able to use the same code with configurations for different state processes. Binti now employs 67 full-time people and is growing to 100+ in the next 12 months. Roughly 40 of those people are solely focused on child welfare licensing and placements software. No state could afford that many full-time staff working on their licensing and placements child welfare system, but collectively, they can. We constantly receive feedback from our customers and make weekly enhancements to the software based on those suggestions. The more customers on Binti, the more feedback we get, the larger our team grows, the better the system gets.

Binti is now working with over 180 agencies in 27 states serving over 22% of child welfare in the US, including 4 states at the state-level with at least one of our modules. We’re proud of the progress and we’re just getting started!

Binti’s work in New Mexico

Binti began working with New Mexico’s Children of Youth and Family Services (CYFD) over a year ago with our Licensing and Placements modules. During that time, I’m proud we’ve shown positive, measurable results for children – we’re making a dent in the shortage of foster/adoptive families by approving more families more quickly for children. Prior to Binti, families across New Mexico interested in fostering/adopting children or relative caregivers taking in children into their home had to complete the application process on paper. Binti launched online applications and the vast majority of new families applying are opting to use the online forms instead of applying on paper. New Mexico is also now approving more families more quickly than before the deployment of these online modules. We’ve also launched with a few tribal governments to help them keep children in their communities and are looking forward to partnering with even more.

Prior to Binti’s work in New Mexico, CYFD had put out a Request for Information asking vendors in the space to submit their approaches to child welfare technology. Binti had applied to this describing how our software works, our SaaS approach and our results across the country. We had a number of demos with team members in CYFD. Following this, Brian Blalock joined as Secretary of CYFD. He reached out to me saying he had heard from his team they were interested in learning more about Binti. He was familiar with our work because he had also heard of our positive results from other agencies in child welfare. He and I had met a few years prior to that at a child welfare conference and had met ~3-4 times in total.

General Services Administration (GSA) is a procurement vehicle operated and maintained by the federal government. Part of the goal of GSA is to make it easier for state and local government agencies to procure products by creating a central procurement vehicle. This is a very widely used procurement method. Each year, $40 billion of products are procured off GSA nationally and it is widely used in New Mexico and other states.

After doing a $60,000 pilot with Binti in one region in New Mexico, CYFD licensed Binti’s first two modules, Licensing and Placements, from GSA for $440,000/year. It is my understanding that CYFD made the decision to license these modules from Binti given that we are by far the most widespread child welfare licensing and placements software in the US, now serving 22% of the country with demonstrated proven results across other states, including at the local and state level.

CYFD was taking some next steps to contract with Binti’s additional child welfare modules, also available off of GSA. Binti’s entire suite of child welfare modules was quoted at $4.5M/year. Compared to other state procurements of replacements for their child welfare systems, this is quite affordable. For example, California spends $94M/year to maintain their and has spent over $400M in recent years trying to rebuild it. Binti’s pricing is meant to be less risky for states, since it’s a flat annual fee instead of a huge lump sum that locks states into using a vendor. Following a leadership change, CYFD has decided to open an RFP for these other modules.

Earlier this year, two employees joined CYFD team and then were let go. They filed a whistleblower complaint for wrongful termination and made various allegations and are requesting a monetary settlement from CYFD. Many of their claims are unrelated to Binti. Included in their broader complaints they raised some questions around Binti’s contract with CYFD and I wanted to answer them.

Their first question was around Binti’s / my prior relationship with Secretary Blalock and if that had a role in Binti getting the contract. In particular, they asked if I was close friends with his wife and if that had an impact. I want to answer this very directly – I do not have and have never had a personal connection with Brian Blalock’s wife. She and I had never met prior to Binti receiving the contract, and therefore, it could have had nothing to do with us getting the contract. I met her once about 8 months after Binti had a contract with CYFD. On a visit to check in with the team, I grabbed tacos with Secretary Blalock and his wife joined. We each paid for our own tacos. As mentioned above, I had met Brian Blalock ~3-4 times prior to him joining. I’ve met hundreds of people in the child welfare world at conferences. Also as mentioned above, Binti was already in touch with CYFD prior to Blalock joining. Again, I believe CYFD decided to work with Binti due to our track record and measurable, positive results.

Their second question was around Binti’s contract and questioning why it was “no-bid” or not an RFP. As mentioned above, GSA is an incredibly common and legal procurement vehicle used across the US and widely used in New Mexico.

CYFD has put out a public statement from spokesman Charlie Moore-Pabst saying “These unfounded allegations will be responded to thoroughly, legally and factually.”

I’ve talked to other CEOs selling to government agencies that have a large chunk of their business through GSA. I’ve brought up this situation to them and they are all very surprised as to how such a widely used, legal procurement vehicle that is maintained and operated by the federal government is being called into question. I am surprised too and I hope this information helps answer questions people have.

In summary, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to partner with CYFD. They have been a great team to partner with and I am proud of the results we’ve achieved together in New Mexico. Binti strives for constant improvement — with every customer, we learn new ways we can improve our software and our processes. I’m grateful for all we’ve learned in New Mexico. With that in mind and zooming out to the big picture, we’ve been able to achieve measurable, positive impact – helping approve more families more quickly for children in New Mexico.