Several weeks ago, the Administration for Children and Families released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM as it is known to those working in and with federal rules.
http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=ACF-2015-0009-0001 The summary reads (in part) as follows: “This proposed rule will remove the requirement for a single comprehensive system and allow title IV-E agencies to implement systems that support current child welfare practice. It also proposes to establish requirements around design, data quality, and data exchange standards in addition to aligning these regulations with current and emerging technology developments to support the administration of title IV-E and IV-B programs….” To the casual reader, this may not seem like a big deal. To data geeks (myself included) this is a HUGE deal. This NPRM opens the doors to many long-awaited improvements and enhancements to child welfare data collection. Years from now we will look back and commiserate about the limitations of child welfare data collected prior to the (as yet proposed) changes.
I cannot help but imagine the things we will do with child welfare data in the future. I anticipate we will look back and think the ‘data dashboards’ that are popular now were miniscule artifacts compared to the things we will do in the future. In my data dreams, caseworkers will have access to real time data on their success in protecting children and achieving permanency. They will use predictive analytics to select not only the best type of placement and treatment for a child but also the best person to provide this care and treatment. This will be done on their mobile devices, while in the field. No more working through a list of providers, some of whom are less than ideal to handle the specific needs and problems presented. Instead caseworkers will have a short list of providers, including anticipated length of treatment required, from whom to choose.
Meanwhile, supervisors will have real-time data on the outcomes of each caseworker, including details about the types of families each caseworker should be assigned to achieve maximum benefits (in the form of positive outcomes for children and families). They will also know which guardian-ad-litems (GALs) have best represented children and the combination of GAL and caseworker most likely to work together successfully. They will have access to the latest reports from providers and educators, to monitor outcomes in mental health and education. Access to and reporting on health care outcomes will be as easy as clicking a few buttons on the keyboard.
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