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October 2018Vol. 19, No. 8Data Sharing for Courts and Child Welfare Agencies

Both child welfare agencies and the courts track valuable information on children, youth, and families that help them identifying and understanding the needs of these populations. These systems often do not collect the same information, however, and so collaboration is necessary to ensure those invested in the well-being of children and youth have access to the information they need to make timely, informed decisions.

Federal regulations now require child welfare agencies that operate a comprehensive child welfare information system to include a bidirectional (i.e., two-way) data exchange with the courts. The Children's Bureau produced a technical assistance toolkit to help guide courts and child welfare agencies in their creation of automated, bidirectional data exchanges between their respective information systems. This thorough toolkit walks child welfare and court professionals through the benefits and challenges of data sharing systems and provides several examples and spotlights of successful systems to learn from. Benefits to bidirectional data exchanges with court information systems may include the following:

  • Less reliance on hard copy documents and storage
  • The ability to capture required title IV-E eligibility data as well as contrary-to-the-welfare-of-the-child determinations
  • Consistency in petitions, notices, and motions within a document management system to ensure valid and reliable data
  • Cost-savings in automated filings of court documentation
  • The ability to measure court performance in timeliness of hearings and decisions
  • The ability to report, per jurisdiction, on foster care population demographics, time in care, number of removals, and number of discharges
  • Child welfare and court staff are relieved of certain administrative duties so they can concentrate on more critical tasks
  • Attorneys, judges,  guardians ad litem, court-appointed special advocates, and other court staff have centralized access to information
  • Eases the administrative burden on families and children who are subject to proceedings
  • Increased timeliness of actions to protect vulnerable children

The toolkit is available at