Magazine article Policy & Practice

ICPC Comes of Age: NEICE Brings the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children into the 21st Century

Magazine article Policy & Practice

ICPC Comes of Age: NEICE Brings the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children into the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Modern technology platforms are essential to transforming health and human services throughout this country. Because of a federal grant to support innovation in interoperability, data exchange, improved business practices, and the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) standards, a new platform will enable permanency outcomes to be achieved in record numbers and in record time for children moving across states lines.

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and its affiliate, the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (AAICPC), were awarded a cooperative agreement grant for a three-year $3.6 million in May 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Administration on Children, Youth, and Families' (ACYF) Children's Bureau (CB) to further develop the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE). The NEICE, a pilot project recently finalized and producing stunning results, is a cloud-based, case-processing system that supports the administration of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) by translating data into a common language and exchanging both data and documents across state jurisdictions in real time to facilitate the safe placement of children. All 52 jurisdictions within the compact will be able to use the NEICE by mid-2018.

THE NEED FOR A NEW APPROACH

The ICPC governs interstate placements for children to ensure that the placement is safe and appropriate. It is designed to provide a multitude of protections for children and requires that case files, home evaluations, and other information are transferred from one state to the other. The current paper-based process is lengthy and arduous, and as a result, children languish in temporary placements for months even though suitable out-of-state caretakers, such as relatives, might be willing to care for them. These delays are not only bad for children and families, but they waste staff time, foster care maintenance costs, placement resources, and administrative resources that are borne by states, localities, and the federal government.

FROM IDEA TO INNOVATION

The NEICE is a dramatic example of how one state's initiative to improve its own performance evolved into a national body of work designed to transform a process and system. In 2008, under the leadership of then-Compact Administrator and AAICPC President Stephen Pennypacker, Florida developed, implemented, and evaluated the technology to transfer electronic records for ICPC within their state. Seeing the benefits, AAICPC explored ways to implement this type of system nationwide. When the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made innovation grants available in 2010 to develop efficient and cost-effective programs capable of achieving outcomes, APHSA and AAICPC applied, and were awarded, funding in October 2013 to modify the Florida Interstate Compact System (ICS) for national application. The CB at ACYF administered the grant through a cooperative agreement.

In a voice from the field, Raquel Garcia, Florida's ICPC coordinator, noted in 2004 that the ICPC caused distress, anger, and much frustration with caseworkers, the dependency legal system, as well as families and children in need of protection. Garcia said, "I will be honest! I was skeptical ... this way was a positive challenge, embraced by few ... we stumbled many times ... but it was clear to see we were making progress ... now, we are running and other states are training so they can run with us and together what a positive change we can make in the lives of so many families.... I am proud to be part of the process ... to participate as a tester .. .to see it happen nationally gives me goose bumps every time I think about it."

TEAMING TO GET IT RIGHT

The NEICE Project Management Team moved quickly to select Tetrus Corporation to build the system. Tetrus brought experience with the juvenile justice data exchange system and knowledge of how to utilize NIEM standards in the development of an interoperable system. …

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