• July/August 2009
  • Vol. 10, No. 6

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Improving Court and Child Welfare Data Exchange

Data exchange among child- and family-serving systems can greatly improve outcomes for children and families involved with the child welfare system, and this is particularly true for courts and child welfare agencies. To promote and ease that process, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is leading the effort to create a Court/Child Welfare National Exchange Template (NET) that sets forth technical specifications for an exchange protocol and data exchange standards.

A task force of State and national court and child welfare professionals helped develop the Court/Child Welfare NET by documenting the business process involved when a child welfare case goes through the courts, identifying typical data exchange points between the two systems, and specifying the data elements necessary to share data efficiently. The Court/Child Welfare NET offers States a framework from which to build a data exchange system that will meet the needs of both the courts and child welfare agencies. States implementing such a system have experienced many benefits, including:

  • Less redundant data entry
  • Improved coordination of services and court appearances
  • A more complete picture of goals and outcomes for families
  • Better information for decision-making
  • Higher quality data to inform best practices and policy changes

A website for the Court/Child Welfare NET Project offers an overview of the project, process models and technical specifications, and summaries of regional and subcommittee meetings. Interested individuals are encouraged to review the technical documents and provide feedback on the process, terminology used in their jurisdiction, and ideas for improvements. Visit the National Center for State Courts website for more information:

www.ncsconline.org/childwelfarewiki

The website also includes an issue brief that describes the development of the Court/Child Welfare NET Project and discusses the experiences of States that have begun planning and implementing court/child welfare data exchange. States have identified challenges in the areas of privacy and confidentiality, information system capacity, and controlling access beyond courts and child welfare agencies. The full issue brief, Can Data Exchange Between Courts and Child Welfare Agencies Improve Outcomes for Children? by Victor Eugene Flango, can be downloaded online:

www.waterholesoftware.com/downloads/Court_CW_Net_Detail.pdf (642 KB)

Related Item

CBX announced the debut of the Toolkit for Court Performance Measures in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases in the February 2009 issue. See "New Toolkit Measures Court Performance in Child Welfare."

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