January/February 2016Vol. 16, No. 10Commissioner's Page
The following is the monthly message from Rafael López, the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Each message focuses on the current Children's Bureau Express Spotlight theme and highlights the Bureau's work on the topic.
In today's world of rapidly advancing technology, there are many tools and avenues open to the child welfare field to help improve services and increase positive impact on children and families across the nation. The Children's Bureau recognizes the importance of embracing technology, systems, and data in order to inform and guide decisions and make services more targeted and efficient.
Over the past few years, the Bureau has undertaken several initiatives and supported efforts aimed at better using data and technology in the child welfare field. In 2012, the Children's Bureau convened three workgroups of national child welfare experts, each focused on a different evaluation topic—Calculating the Costs of Child Welfare Services Workgroup, Tribal Evaluation Workgroup, and Framework Workgroup. The workgroups created products designed to strengthen the link between research and practice and respond to pressing evaluation needs in child welfare. In 2014, the Bureau announced the Child Welfare Evaluation Virtual Summit Series, a group of 17 videos that combine illustration, animation, motion graphics, and content from national experts on a variety of evaluation topics. Videos covering the following topics are available on the Children's Bureau website:
- Cost analysis in child welfare
- Constructing comparison groups
- Evaluation and direct practice
- Measuring child well-being
- Sharing data across service systems
- Strengthening partnerships between research and practice
- Using workforce data
- Effective evaluation with Tribal communities
- Building evidence and spreading effective child welfare practice
The Children's Bureau has also funded discretionary infrastructure-building grants that support collaborative initiatives between State, local, or Tribal child welfare agencies and education systems to improve educational stability and permanency outcomes for youth between the ages of 10 and 17 years in the child welfare system. Projects funded through this grant cluster worked to gather information about the educational status of youth in care, improve data sharing between the child welfare and educational systems, and reduce disruptions and removals from schools. Learn more about the projects, including outcomes and lessons learned, at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/management/funding/funding-sources/federal-funding/cb-funding/cbreports/edcollaborations/.
In the past year, the Bureau has published two Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) announcing changes aimed at improving national information and reporting systems. The regulations proposed in the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System NPRM (PDF - 453 KB) will replace the Statewide/Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information System regulations at 45 CFR 1355.50 – 57 and provide State and Tribal title IV-E agencies with more flexibility to take advantage of modern technology to build smaller, flexible, and less expensive systems to support changes in child welfare practice. The NPRM on the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) (PDF - 665 KB) proposes to update the AFCARS requirements to incorporate statutory requirements that have passed since 1993 and to enhance the type and quality of information title IV-E agencies report to the Children's Bureau by modifying and expanding data elements and requiring title IV-E agencies to submit historical data. Within the next few months, the Bureau will publish an AFCARS Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rule Making (PDF - 167 KB) to collect data related to the unique experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native children and families in title IV-E-funded child welfare systems.
As technology continues to advance and offer new opportunities for interaction and learning, so, too, must the child welfare field continue to seek new ways to reach out to and improve the lives of children and families. By keeping stride with technological developments and taking advantage of opportunities to improve systems' capacities, child welfare can continue to provide the best and most relevant services.