Using Data to Enhance Equity in Child Welfare

Using Data to Enhance Equity in Child Welfare

Findings from an Environmental Scan
Published: May 08, 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
  • Emerging data practices across the five stages of the data life cycle offer unique opportunities to recognize and improve equity in child welfare.
  • Emerging practices for data planning include engaging the community, developing guidelines for equity-focused policies and practices, and ensuring that appropriate data systems and training opportunities are in place.
  • Emerging data collection practices include considering how to collect disaggregated data, practicing sensitivity and cultural competency during data collection, and developing or adapting data collection instruments to collect data that may inform equitable service delivery and placements.
  • Emerging data practices for data access, management, and linking include ensuring data accessibility and transparency, sharing data between systems, maintaining quality data, and implementing data security policies and oversight.
  • Emerging data practices for data analysis, metrics, and interpretation include using disaggregated data to identify inequities, leveraging innovative analysis approaches, using equity-centered approaches to contextualize and interpret data, considering how results may affect communities, and determining how agencies will address inequities.
  • Reporting and dissemination practices included developing actionable products, being transparent, and making materials accessible to and interpretable for all audiences.  

This brief summarizes emerging data practices that may help advance equity in child welfare. We define data practices as all activities involving data, including activities that support data planning, collection, access, analysis, reporting, and dissemination. We identified the emerging data practices by conducting an environmental scan of academic literature, policy documents, and other relevant sources. These emerging data practices have the potential to support efforts to promote equity throughout the continuum of child welfare services

In this brief, we organize data practices into five sequential stages of the data life cycle: (1) data planning; (2) data collection; (3) data access, management, and linking; (4) data analysis, metrics, and interpretation; and (5) reporting and dissemination. Emerging data practices at each stage of the data life cycle  offer unique opportunities to recognize and improve equity. To comprehensively understand and address inequities, child welfare agencies and their partners may consider ways to implement data practices at each stage of the data life cycle to inform and support equitable decision making.

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