The What, Why, and How of Collecting and Analyzing Demographic Data to Improve Equity in Child Welfare

The What, Why, and How of Collecting and Analyzing Demographic Data to Improve Equity in Child Welfare

Published: Apr 30, 2024
Publisher: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE)
Associated Project

Child Welfare Study to Enhance Equity with Data (CW-SEED)

Time frame: 2021-2024

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

Key Findings
  • When using existing demographic or other data, collecting new data, or improving how data are collected to understand and improve equity, child welfare agencies should consider:
  1. what types of demographic and other data to use or collect,
  2. why to use or collect the data, and
  3. how the data will be collected and used.
  • Agencies should also consider how to ensure data reflects the demographic makeup of the local communities and is informed by input from the community.
  • It is also important for agencies to consider the feasibility of collecting and using disaggregated demographic data to advance equity, including the resources needed to improve the quality of data, staff training, and data collection instruments, and the management, security, storage, analysis, and reporting of data.
  • When using data to measure disparity and disproportionality, child welfare agencies should aim to define the populations or groups that will be used in calculations based on the goals of the analysis and understand the different measures of disparity and disproportionality and how to perform the calculations.
  • Additionally, agencies should use multiple measures to gain a more complete understanding of the extent of the disparity and develop a plan, with input from the local community, to use the data and findings to address disparities.
This brief summarizes practices related to collecting detailed demographic data—such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression—and other data to measure equity in child welfare. We compiled these data practices from an environmental scan of academic literature, policy documents, and other relevant sources to examine how state and local child welfare agencies and their partners determine what data they will collect, why they will collect these data, and how they will collect and use the data to measure and understand inequities.

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