2007 Finalist
State of Tennessee
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

The Center for State Foster Care Adoption Data—a partnership of Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, the American Public Human Services Association, and member states—was developed in 2004 to promote greater accountability in public child welfare programs.

The data center uses computer science, mathematics, and knowledge of child welfare policy and practice to expand the utility of states' data systems. By providing states with longitudinal data—for example, on racial disparity in various states' foster care systems—the Center fosters cross-state collaboration to develop more effective responses to common problems.

The Center also links outcomes for children placed in foster care with funding. This allows for a more transparent view of how successful different programs are, and promotes accountability among private service providers through a performance-based contracting system. Social workers reported that their limited access to data meant they had little to no support in decision making. This led the Center to develop a low-cost, Web-based system that provides secure access to data, along with e-learning tools to promote the expanded use of statistical information. The Center also provides opportunities to test novel approaches to policy and program innovations through the analysis of foster care systems reform efforts implemented nationwide.

Member states have developed their own initiatives using management analysis derived from the Center's database. The State of Tennessee has established specific regional baselines and targets for achieving permanent placement for children in foster care as part of a two-year child welfare reform effort. In New York State, the Office of Children and Family Services worked through the Center to design a monitoring program for its county child welfare services and to project future utilization of services. Connecticut also made use of the data collected to create an "Accountability Framework" which defines the goals of the state foster care system, highlights resource allocation priorities, and outlines benchmarks by which the state may monitor its performance.