Sharing Data to Benefit Kids: A Guide for Child Welfare and Education Systems

Posted May 25, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog sharingdatatobenefitkids 2017

Jason E. Miczek for the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Estab­lish­ing sys­tems that allow state child wel­fare and edu­ca­tion­al agen­cies to share crit­i­cal data about chil­dren is no small task. A guide cre­at­ed with sup­port from the Foun­da­tion, Roadmap for Fos­ter Care and K‑12 Data Link­ages, out­lines sev­en areas of col­lab­o­ra­tion crit­i­cal to inte­grat­ing data in ways that can tru­ly improve the lives of vul­ner­a­ble children.

Suc­cess­ful data link­ages mean agen­cies are able to draw on all the pub­licly col­lect­ed infor­ma­tion to cre­ate a more com­plete pic­ture of indi­vid­ual stu­dents in fos­ter care, help­ing inform inter­ven­tions that are more effective.

Data shar­ing between fos­ter care and edu­ca­tion­al agen­cies is good for kids — and it’s fea­si­ble,” says Cyn­thia Guy, the Foundation’s vice pres­i­dent for research, eval­u­a­tion, evi­dence and data. To make this hap­pen in a way that best serves chil­dren and fam­i­lies, you need a strong com­mit­ment and will­ing­ness to engage at the top lev­els and in the trenches.”

The report is the prod­uct of a gath­er­ing of lead­ers and experts in cre­at­ing high-qual­i­ty link­ages between state fos­ter care and K‑12 data con­vened in 2016 by the Data Qual­i­ty Cam­paign and the Legal Cen­ter for Fos­ter Care & Edu­ca­tion. Casey sup­port­ed the effort as part of a broad­er agen­da to pro­mote data-dri­ven pro­gram­ming and pol­i­cy reform and the devel­op­ment of data resources that are both cost effec­tive and comprehensive.

Key ingre­di­ents for suc­cess­ful data shar­ing iden­ti­fied in the report:

  1. Shared vision: Agen­cies must share a vision that iden­ti­fies the val­ue of their work in the lives of stu­dents in fos­ter care and in improv­ing those children’s lives. The shared vision puts a human face on data and dri­ves the design and use of the data sys­tems to effec­tive­ly sup­port stu­dents in fos­ter care.
  2. Roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties: Clear­ly defined roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties allow agen­cies to cre­ate a struc­ture that can spec­i­fy how each will sup­port one anoth­er around data col­lec­tion, report­ing and use, as well as cre­ate account­abil­i­ty for data qual­i­ty and security.
  3. Capac­i­ty: States need the struc­tures and staff to sus­tain the data link­ages over the long term and con­tin­ue to meet people’s chang­ing infor­ma­tion needs. It is not a one-time effort.
  4. Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and data match­ing: High-qual­i­ty data link­ages between agen­cies means the same student’s data can be found in dif­fer­ent sys­tems. Many stu­dents in fos­ter care also belong to oth­er spe­cial pop­u­la­tions; it is impor­tant that the data-match­ing process includes this information.
  5. Data qual­i­ty: Accu­rate, time­ly, trust­wor­thy data are crit­i­cal. High-qual­i­ty data fol­lows indi­vid­ual chil­dren over time and across the child wel­fare and edu­ca­tion­al agen­cies. Data must be accu­rate, time­ly, user friend­ly, use­ful, com­pa­ra­ble and pre­sent­ed as part of a big­ger picture.
  6. Data analy­sis, report­ing and use: Data allow teach­ers, case man­agers, case work­ers, edu­ca­tion lead­ers, researchers and oth­er stake­hold­ers to deter­mine the aca­d­e­m­ic progress of stu­dents in fos­ter care as well as the per­for­mance of edu­ca­tion systems.
  7. Pri­va­cy and Secu­ri­ty: Data pri­va­cy and secu­ri­ty should be mul­ti­fac­eted and trans­par­ent so all stake­hold­ers under­stand how infor­ma­tion is kept secure and com­ply with fed­er­al and state regulations.

The roadmap also includes sev­er­al exam­ples of places that have suc­cess­ful­ly tack­led chal­lenges to build­ing and main­tain­ing such sys­tems. There are juris­dic­tions ahead of the curve that have been doing this for a while because it was right way to serve kids,” Guy said.

Read the report

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