Magazine article Policy & Practice

Leading-Edge Child Welfare Data Available to State Agencies

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Leading-Edge Child Welfare Data Available to State Agencies

Article excerpt

The American Public Human Services Association has teamed up with a prominent child adoption research center to provide states, for the first time, with a national database to track changes in state foster care and adoption data over time.

The joint effort--the Center for State Foster Care and Adoption Data--is a partnership between the APHSA and the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, which developed the information technology to help states better monitor the performance of their child welfare systems.

Until now, states relied on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, or AFCARS, which does not track changes in the data over time. The need for these data, which are essential for performance measurement, has become more urgent since the advent of federally mandated Child and Family Services Reviews, which require states to develop program improvement plans or risk losing federal funding.

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"The center's technology will enable administrators at various levels of child welfare agencies to access important data and provide a framework to understand whether they are realizing their program goals," said Fred Wulczyn, research fellow at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, who headed the development of the center's database technology.

The Center for State Foster Care and Adoption Data's longitudinal database gives state administrators the capacity to:

* Analyze key child welfare outcomes;

* Compare outcomes for different administrative offices within their state or other states;

* Trace outcomes from the aggregate to the individual child level;

* Project future service patterns based on historical trends;

* Test the impact of service and policy innovations;

* Set performance goals and monitor progress;

* Link financial decision-making to outcome measures; and

* Tell their story to the media and make their case to legislators. …

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