Being a parent is hard at any age, but it can be even harder for younger moms and dads. And harder yet for young parents in foster care. To support these young parents and their families, systems leaders — ranging from child welfare to education to juvenile justice — need reliable data to guide policies and practices.
Yet, according to Tammi Fleming, senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative: “Data on expectant and parenting youth in foster care and their children are often not collected or analyzed in a systematic way.”
To help address this need, the Casey Foundation — in partnership with the Center for the Study of Social Policy and more than 20 national experts — has created a tool kit for leaders working in a range of public-serving systems.
Called the Expectant and Young Parents in Foster Care: Systems Leaders Data Tool Kit, this new resource has nine distinct components. They are:
- FAQ: Information about the tool kit and how it can help strengthen data collection, use and analysis to improve outcomes for expectant and parenting youth in foster care.
- Maximizing the Family First Act: A summary of provisions aimed at improving services for expectant and parenting youth in foster care and their families.
- Policy Resource Guide: Links to sample policies and an outline for developing and improving policies for expectant and parenting youth in foster care.
- 10 Tips for Building Effective Data Systems: A summary of 10 critical steps to initiate or strengthen current data systems for expectant and parenting youth in foster care.
- Data Elements Checklist: A tool to conduct a quick assessment of existing data elements and to help inform continuous quality improvement efforts.
- Guide to Data Sharing and Collaboration: A document that describes ways to share information and data and links to templates for establishing agreements.
- Federal Data and Reporting Requirements Matrix: A guide that highlights federal regulations for data requirements and reporting on expectant and parenting youth in foster care.
- Continuous Quality Improvement for Meaningful Use Data Systems: A document that describes how child welfare leaders can create a continuous improvement process.
- State-by-State Data Profiles: A collection of state-level data collected during the Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care Survey in 2018.
Beyond gathering information to develop smarter policies and practices, systems leaders have another reason to ramp up their data collection efforts for these families: the 2018 passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act.
“Family First will provide access to prevention services as early as October 2019, but jurisdictions are required to collect data to receive these benefits,” says Fleming, who led the workgroup that developed the tool kit and is continuing to expand the Foundation’s efforts in this area. “We are focused on ensuring that leaders at all levels are aware that they need to retrieve this data, so they have the necessary resources to support these young families.”
To create the tool kit, the workgroup surveyed child welfare jurisdictions to learn how expectant and parenting youth in foster care are faring. The survey underscored the necessity of collecting, analyzing and using data across states and systems and how it could help states make policy and practice decisions based on a better understanding of the experiences, strengths and needs of these families.
For Fleming, the tool kit is a means to an important end: “We need a comprehensive understanding to support these young families,” she says. “We have to know more about the experiences and needs of expectant and parenting youth to help design the services that are going to make the biggest differences for them.”
The Expectant and Parenting Youth in Foster Care: Systems Leaders Data Tool Kit is available free of charge. Jurisdictions can contact the Casey Foundation to receive additional support — via phone calls or video conferences — from experts with from the Foundation and the Center for the Study of Social Policy.