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Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts Children’s Roundtable Summit November 21, 2009 Making Data Informed Decisions (Ramblings from the Left Coast). Barbara Needell, MSW, PhD Center for Social Services Research University of California at Berkeley

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Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania CourtsChildren’s Roundtable SummitNovember 21, 2009Making Data Informed Decisions(Ramblings from the Left Coast)

Barbara Needell, MSW, PhD

Center for Social Services Research

University of California at Berkeley

The Performance Indicators Project is a collaboration of the

California Department of Social Services and the University of California at Berkeley,

and is supported by the

California Department of Social Services and the Stuart Foundation

tracking child welfare outcomes
tracking child welfare outcomes

rate of referrals/

substantiated referrals

home-based services vs.

out of home care

reentry to care


through reunification,

adoption, or



indicators of system


use of least


form of care


of stay

positive attachments to family, friends, and neighbors


of care

Source: Usher, C.L., Wildfire, J.B., Gogan, H.C. & Brown, E.L. (2002). Measuring Outcomes in Child Welfare. Chapel Hill:  Jordan Institute for Families,

the view matters how long do children stay in foster care
the view matters…How long do children stay in foster care?

January 1, 2008

July 1, 2008

December 31, 2008

Source: Aron Shlonsky, University of Toronto (formerly at CSSR)

the california experience
The California Experience
  • University/Agency collaboration
  • Publicly available reports since 1994, online since 2000
  • Nationally mandated measures (CFSR)
  • State mandated measures (California Outcomes and Accountability System—AB636 law since 2001)
  • Enhancements and additional measures
  • Dynamic, user defined drill down and breakout functionality
  • All tables refreshed quarterly
  • Data over time, for California and each of the 58 counties
  • Presentations, tools, etc.
public data putting it all out there
public data:putting it all out there
  • pros:
    • greater performance accountability
    • community awareness and involvement, encourages public-private partnerships
    • ability to track improvement over time, identify areas where programmatic adjustments are needed
    • County/County, County/State and Agency/Court collaboration
  • cons:
    • potential for misuse, misinterpretation, and misrepresentation
    • available to those with agendas or looking to create a sensational headline
    • misunderstood data can lead to the wrong policy decisions
    • “Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything”
      • Gregg Easterbrook
how s it working for us
how’s it working for us?
  • Publicly available data for child welfare has become business as usual
  • State, county, courts and UCB are able to respond quickly and thoroughly to data abuse/number torturing
  • Child Welfare Council formed in 2006 (AB2216) chaired by HHS Secretary Kim Belshe and Justice Carlos Moreno
  • Most outcome measures are improving over time
child welfare county data profiles court data reports
Child Welfare County Data Profiles: Court Data Reports

- AOC has contributed to state (CDSS) funding for this work

- Customized excel reports for judges designed by AOC and CSSR staff

  • Data restricted to court dependent children when possible
  • County/State and County side by side table and graph comparisons
  • % change between timeframes
  • Presents data from child welfare and court sources (filings)
  • Provides links to source reports on CWS/CMS reports website to allow users to further explore data

Barbara Needell

510 290 6334


Needell, B., Webster, D., Armijo, M., Lee, S., Dawson, W., Magruder, J., Exel, M., Glasser, T., Williams, D., Zimmerman, K., Simon, V., Putnam-Hornstein, E., Frerer, K., Cuccaro-Alamin, S., Winn, A., Lou, C., & Peng, C. (2009). Child Welfare Services Reports for California. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from University of California at Berkeley Center for Social Services Research website. URL: <>

Presentation Developed by Emily Putnam-Hornstein and Christine Wei-Mien Lou