What happened to the adage, "What gets measured, gets done"? Though progress is being made, there are too many child protection agencies that have yet to understand the profound impact data-informed policy and practice have on performance outcomes, as well as staff retention and satisfaction.
Without dipping deep into the well, I pulled this small sample of quotes from multiple reports and audits done on child serving agencies:
“The better our data, the better we can target where real crime is going on [and]where we are seeing some problems in police-community interactions that we can catch ahead of time,” President Obama said. “The use of technology or the use of data, combined with smart community policing, can really make a difference.”
"Staff stated there is a need for analytical support to extract data and create reports, which would provide better information regarding call information for management to staff appropriately for peak times."
"The Child Abuse and Neglect Center Referrals Statistical Summaries do not include data on After Hour Program calls nor average number of calls and dispositions per social worker, to provide adequate information to manage staffing"
"Over the course of the audit, department staff routinely indicated they recognize CPS activities are not well documented. However, they stress their work keeps children safe and ultimately that is the focus of their activities, with documentation of those activities being secondary."
"The Department is data rich, but analysis poor. They do not use data to in assessing, planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving the effectiveness of service delivery."
No one would ever say we should put data collection over child safety, but it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. In fact, better data analysis will help caseworkers know where best to spend their limited time.
Some agencies are further along than others, however, many are lacking the tools, capacity, and data driven culture to implement business reporting and/or advance analytics into continuous quality improvement efforts. That being said, it all starts with laying a firm foundation within the culture of the agency that emphasizes data collection, analysis and utilization of data to improve the ability to make informed case practice and policy decisions.
To hear from national thought leaders on the issue of creating a data driven culture that positively impacts services for children, please register for the Dec. 3 webinar, How Data Helps Protect At-Risk Children.