The SafeMeasures® Feedback Loop
SafeMeasures, NCCD’s data reporting service, is an important component in our clients’ ongoing “manage by data” efforts. One of the hallmarks of the SafeMeasures service is the accessibility of NCCD staff and our responsiveness to user concerns, known as our feedback loop. The long-term relationships we have established with our users and state analytical staff, along with our ever-evolving data reports, make it possible to quickly review and (if necessary) modify a data report’s methodology. A few years ago in California, a simple question from a user quickly shot through our feedback loop and ultimately resulted in a policy change at the state level.
In California, policy mandates that children in foster care must be in the least restrictive setting available, and SafeMeasures has a report that displays which children are in the different types of foster care settings. One county contacted the SafeMeasures help desk because they had several children who, per their case management system, were living in small family homes, but were showing in SafeMeasures as living in group homes. This categorization was negatively affecting the county’s performance report.
After reviewing the cases, SafeMeasures analysts verified that small family homes were indeed being lumped in with group homes in the official state methodology. SafeMeasures analysts shared the citations and examples of the relevant state program code with the county.
At the same time, SafeMeasures analysts also notified the state analysts and others who had originally created the methodology so they could review it. After the state analysts conferred and contacted the CDSS Child Welfare Data Analysis Bureau, they collectively agreed to take the small family homes out of the group home category and put them into the foster homes category.
The magnitude of the change was small, but from the county’s perspective, it was significant. Group homes are generally considered to be more restrictive, and therefore undesirable, settings. Statewide, 4,976 children were in a group home placement (CSSR, Dynamic Reporting System, 4B PIT, October 1, 2008). Our estimate shows that the revision reduced the reported group home population by five to six percent.
This entire process—from the county’s original question to the public announcement of the analysis change—took less than 24 hours. This kind of change could never have taken place without two key components of the SafeMeasures service: the data transparency to all users, and the close relationship we have with California county users and top-level state data analysts.
Sarah Hesse is a Business Analyst at NCCD.