Why can we track a package around the world, but we can’t keep track of our kids in foster care?
States use a variety of data collection and sharing systems to track child welfare information—how many children are entering and exiting foster care for example. But there are roadblocks along the way to obtaining complete, consistent and specific information about each child.
The line between purely serving data collection purposes and providing integrated service delivery to achieve improved decision making and data analysis is a meaningful one. States are charged with developing their own data collection systems to collect and store critical information on children and families to meet federal reporting requirements, but how is that data used within the state and across state agencies?
Creating a web-based, integrated case management system that allows the caseworker to see all of the relevant information when they need it is potentially the next step in state child welfare policy. Many states do not currently have an integrated case management system, instead, time and money is spent on data collection and reporting. Web-based case management systems have the potential to improve decision-making for children and families by allowing child welfare agencies to gather a more comprehensive set of information that can be seen in real time by various stakeholders and decision-makers.
All 50 states have a data collection and reporting system designed to meet federal reporting requirements. Previously states used the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS), but most states now use the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS).
Below is further discussion of both the SACWIS and
The Previous System
Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS)
The Statewide and Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information Systems (SACWIS/TACWIS) was a federally funded data collection system. All states were required to collect and report particular information to the federal government. States had the option of creating a SACWIS model in order to comply with these federal reporting requirements or they may implement an alternative data collection model.
This information was then compiled into the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). Both were then made publicly available on the Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data website.
Most states elected to implement a SACWIS system, while others developed other non-SACWIS programs designed to perform similarly.
SACWIS (35 states and the District of Columbia)
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Non-SACWIS Models (12)
Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia
The Current System
Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS)
On August 11, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the Comprehensive Child Welfare Information System (CCWIS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to address changes in technology and provide agencies with increased flexibility to build smaller systems that more closely mirror their practice models. The new CCWIS regulations substantially altered the child welfare technology landscape, opening the door to innovation. CCWIS was created to help modernize child welfare systems and reduce maintenance costs across the country. This new system allows for states to better customize their system to their specific needs and requires collaboration across entities such as Medicaid and education. States are still required to collect and report particular information to the federal government.
This information is also compiled into the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). Both are publicly available on the Children’s Bureau’s Child Welfare Outcomes Report Data website.
Most states have declared their intent to switch to a CCWIS system, though many states are still in transition from CASWIS systems. NCSL has identified at least 35 states and the District of Colombia that have declared they will be switching to CCWIS. Because CCWIS is optional, a few states have developed non-CCWIS programs designed to perform similarly.
CCWIS Complete or in Transition (35 states and D.C.)
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Non-CCWIS Models (15 states and Puerto Rico)
Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Texas, Vermont, Virginia
New Systems and Innovations
Since 1993, when the Department of Health and Human Services first created
regulations for SACWIS, child welfare practice and technology, particularly information technology, have evolved tremendously. This rapid change in technology has created the need and desire for new ways of getting and responding to information.
For states implementing CCWIS programs, requirements include improving program management and administration, appropriately applying technology, avoiding duplicate development and maintenance, and ensuring costs are reasonable, appropriate and beneficial. CCWIS states are also required to report data to support federal and agency reporting such as the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD).
Another major component of CCWIS is information sharing across systems known as Interoperability. Interoperability is particularly important for children in foster care who face complex behavioral and mental health care needs. A lack of records can have serious consequences, like an over-prescription of psychotropic medications or duplicate immunizations. Sharing information between government systems allows for better collaboration and informed decision-making.
The Results Oriented Management (ROM) Reports System is offered by the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, in partnership with Casey Family Programs and the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NIECE) program.
ROM Reporting is a web-based management reporting system that uses existing CCWIS data to show performance trends over time. Twelve states are currently using ROM Reporting (Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon and Vermont) and, in addition to the 80 plus standard reports, are capable of customizing the reports they would like to have available. ROM provides up-to-date data on Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) outcome measures as well as other performance measures for child protective services, foster care and in-home services. It can be used internally to compare regions and counties, as well as child characteristics such as age, race and abuse type, or externally to inform state and community stakeholders, such as legislators and judges.
One example of the public ROM Reporting program in action is Colorado’s public Community Performance Center. There, the public can search various outcomes for children in the state of Colorado and drill down to county-level data. In addition to providing the public information, there is an internal management reporting site that allows the user to view case level specifics in order to analyze and improve outcomes and workforce management.
NIECE is a pilot project designed to support the administration of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). It is a web-based system that seeks to improve timely foster and adoptive placements through an electronic case processing system that allows jurisdictions to share information across state lines. Six states – Florida, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia – are testing the 17-month pilot project which launched in August of 2014.
Questions for state legislators to ask/consider:
- What outcomes do you want to see improved?
- How can improved technology help achieve those outcomes?
- Who are the partners that should be at the table?
- What benefit would a new technology system provide to children and families?
- What do you want out of a data-collection system?
- More efficient day-to-day process for workers?
- Compliance with federal reporting requirements?
- Ensuring appropriate federal and state reimbursement?
- Integrating multiple systems, such as child welfare, health, justice?
- Collecting better data in order to make more informed laws and policies?
- How much will a new data collection and reporting system cost?
Note: This project was supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with input from Casebook and ROM.
About This NCSL Project
The Denver-based child welfare project staff focuses on state policy, tracking legislation and providing research and policy analysis, consultation, and technical assistance specifically geared to the legislative audience. Denver staff can be reached at (303) 364-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL staff in Washington, D.C. track and analyze federal legislation and policy and represent state legislatures on child welfare issues before Congress and the Administration. Staff in D.C. can be reached at (202) 624-5400 or email@example.com.