Operations

Operations

The combination of skills necessary to effectively administer an information management strategy calls for either a highly trained individual or, more likely, a team approach. The information management team should have at least one person who has a strong public child welfare background and grounding in the nuances of the state or local child welfare system. Questions that need to be answered to guide the work of the team include:

  • Is the team a separate entity?
  • If so, how does the role of the team differ/overlap with other efforts within the agency to improve performance? 
  • How will the team interface with the existing performance improvement structure within the agency?

The information management team needs to maintain a continued and positive relationship with public child welfare staff and should continually check in with them regarding decisions and directions related to information management. Having members of the information management team embedded in child welfare with an understanding of how public child welfare workers collect and how stakeholders use data helps move information management from merely reporting numbers to telling a meaningful, accurate and useful story about the children, youth and families in the public child welfare system. Equally important to the storytelling is the importance of having individuals responsible for the information management infrastructure being versed in technology as well as the programs that the system is designed to serve. Information management team members should have a basic skill set to structure questions that are relevant in an agency’s efforts to improve programs. This means that:

  • Agency leadership must invest the time to figure out the questions they are trying to answer, what data elements are needed to answer those questions and what analysis is necessary to determine progress in the identified areas.
  • The ability to think critically and creatively about information management should be a highly valued skill among both the agency’s Executive Team and staff in the field involved in efforts to improve the agency’s performance.
  • The ethical implications of collecting one’s data and analyzing it within the same organizational framework should be considered.
  • Opportunities for strategic partnerships with universities or research institutes should be explored both for the ready expertise they bring to data analysis and to counter the ethical implications mentioned above.

Appropriate capacity has to be built to support data analysis. The question of internal capabilities versus external/outsourcing (contracting with an outside vendor or University) should be explored individually by each agency. Partnerships may be a good way to maximize scarce fiscal resources. However, the partner has to know the business of public child welfare, needs knowledge of the agency data capacities and any contractual agreements must reflect clear and measurable goals and objectives.

 

One tension that may arise with regards to partnerships with external entities managing public child welfare agencies’ data and information involves the question of data ownership. Agency leaders should develop a standard of practice regarding ownership of the data when the agency contracts with a third party provider for data analysis or related program evaluation activities.

 

Building Infrastructure Capacity

The volume of information gathered by a public child welfare agency in service of its core mission is substantial and it is no longer possible to manage information without the assistance of computer hardware and software. Procurement of the necessary hardware and software is a significant undertaking. Procurement has to take into account each phase of the information

management cycle: collection and storage, analysis, access and dissemination.asking relevant questions that are necessary to improve both agency performance and outcomes for youth and families. Additional effective ways to build the required critical thinking and systematic improvement techniques are found outside of the classroom setting. These include supervisor coaching, mentoring from CQI specialists and staff participation in groups and committees with a focus on using information to form strat gies and close gaps in agency performance and how the children and families served fare

in terms of experiences and outcomes.






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