Aligning Data

Best Practices Discussed at our Children’s Cabinet Summits

Need to build capacity to use data.

Very few programs, agencies and partnerships are internally armed with the resources and staff to fully utilize the power of data. Programs, partnerships and other coordinating bodies need staff that understand the importance of data and how to integrate it into the entity’s work – from identifying indicators, creating measures, making mid-course corrections, evaluating work, etc. Research and data terminology and methodology can be difficult for practitioners, policy leaders, community members and families alike to follow. It often takes a lot of time for leaders to explain to stakeholders what the data means and how it is relevant.

Maintaining data is an ongoing task.

Local agencies and partnerships often struggle to sustain data collection and analysis for decision-making processes. Leaders are frequently turning to data systems, dashboards and outcomes frameworks in order to make better informed choices relating to funding, community engagement or program evaluation. By using a consistent framework or dashboard, agencies can begin to build a better picture of what is happening in their communities over time. Governments can also use these dashboards to reach out to their community organization and philanthropic industry partners. These partners can be engaged in the data collection process or can use new data sources to update their own work. One participant, through a data mapping initiative, was able to show a gap in early childhood education opportunities within their county and connect with businesses to fill that gap.

Agencies should strive for common language when using data.

Many agencies at the state or local level are often involved with the data collection process. This overlap causes confusion when these agencies lack a common language. Agencies might collect information on populations that are defined in different ways, making it difficult for agencies to combine datasets and collaborate. For example, one agency might define youth as all teenagers while another agency might define youth more broadly to include younger individuals. Other agencies might define treatments, such as counseling, in different ways and only count some youth as receiving certain supports. Agencies should coordinate a common language to increase their ability to use data in decision-making processes.

Data sharing agreements can help.

Coalitions often seek to use data from existing government sources to track progress and learn. Policymakers can support this process by entering into data sharing agreements to share internal databases across agencies with agreed upon entities acting in partnership. It is also important to engage with the community so that they are informed about how and why their data is being used as well as when their data is being given to new partners as a result of these agreements.

The solutions are more adaptive than they are technical.

There is a common misconception that integrating data systems is a technology infused process that requires IT experts. Although there are technological aspects and experts that have to be folded into the process, a bulk of the work requires culture and attitude shifts, and identifying and engaging the right partners. A system not only has to be built but those using it have to believe in it and actually use it. Reaching out to partners in the legislative branch to make them more comfortable can also lead to funding changes to support those data systems.

Examples Shared at our 2016 Children’s Cabinet Network Summit

Oakland utilized juvenile justice data to create unique IDs so that new data about each child can be integrated into the juvenile justice data even when a child leaves the juvenile justice system.

Denver is utilizing mapping tools to guide their funding allocations by documenting opportunity gaps. The Mayor is also utilizing a child-wellbeing index that incentivizes investments in needed areas in order to reduce disparities.

New York City began using data from seven different local agencies to target youth who are involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems simultaneously.

Philadelphia created an early childhood risk model that utilizes seven risk indicators related to early health and education outcomes. The city then uses this information to find available high quality services that can support at-risk children and youth.

Allegheny County created a data warehouse with 29 different internal and external data sources shared from a variety of community partners. The data is then made available to their human service provider’s network.

 Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund created the Blueprint for Early Childhood, a toolkit to guide early childhood education partners on measuring their progress.

Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet has created data sharing agreements through their technology  work group to improve agency collaboration and communication between systems.

Examples Shared at our 2015 Children’s Cabinet Network Summit

Providence has been able to use data at the individual level to target intervention and improve outcomes. For example, they have been able to use data to identify the specific students at each school that have not filled out a FAFSA and in one year have been able to significantly increase the city’s FAFSA completion rates.

Montgomery County has memoranda of understandings (MOUs) between each program that is part of its Children’s Opportunity Fund and their local school. The county is working on developing a master MOU between the school district and the department of Health and Human Services.

San Diego has a master MOU between the 42 different school districts and their child welfare system.

The Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund provides investments to communities throughout Kansas using a RFP process. The Cabinet partnered with Kansas University to create the Common, an effort to align measures across early-childhood programs all over the state.

Virginia’s health and Human resources Secretariat created a database that merged Title IV-E, Medicaid and other program information and is now attempting to merge more with the Children’s Cabinet.

Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) is committed to helping places improve education, health and human services related policies and practices through quality integrated data systems. AISP is working closely with Broward County, and many other places, to help them develop an integrated data system.

Tools and Resources

Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP)

The Forum for Youth Investment’s Performance Partnership Pilots (P3) Hub

Sharing Data for Better Results: A Guide to Building Integrated Data Systems Compatible with  Federal Privacy Laws.

Changing the odds for young people has never been more important