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July/August 2010Vol. 11, No. 6Roadmap for Electronic Information Exchange

Children in foster care often have complex needs that require the support of multiple State or local agencies. If providers are empowered to share key information across systems more quickly and efficiently, children will benefit.

A recent analysis by The Children's Partnership (TCP) presents a guide for States and jurisdictions interested in improving their information systems and policies to support the electronic exchange of information on children in foster care. The report highlights some of the benefits of using electronic information exchange:

  • Improved ability to provide an array of coordinated and individualized services
  • Increased receipt of preventive care
  • Decreased use of emergency services and psychiatric care
  • Substantial cost savings

Recent Federal legislation requires States to examine their ability to exchange information on the health-care needs of children in foster care. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 mandates that the State or Tribal agency responsible for foster care services work with the State Medicaid agency to develop a plan for ongoing oversight and coordination of health care services for children in foster care, including how medical information for those children will be updated and shared.

Considering the benefits of electronic information exchange and both Federal and State initiatives that address such exchanges, the report analyzes the potential for California to develop and implement a shared electronic data system for health and child welfare agencies. The report includes two models, with differences in how the agencies could develop privacy restrictions for data storage and access. The report also outlines several issues for the State to consider as it creates a strategic plan to fund and design the new system. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Leverage existing State and local electronic systems
  • Create policies and technical standards for information technology
  • Clarify privacy laws related to data-sharing for children in foster care
  • Establish a system of governance
  • Promote leadership at the highest levels of State government
  • Use local pilot efforts to test the system before statewide implementation

The report, Electronic Information Exchange for Children in Foster Care: A Roadmap to Improved Outcomes, was written by Stefanie Gluckman with Ashley Phelps. Visit the TCP website to download the full report or an executive summary:

Related Item

The Federal Government's National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) is designed to enable information sharing. Read about NIEM's applicability for youth and family services on the NIEM website: