In recent years, court systems and public agencies have focused on measuring the impact of their work and using data to drive practice and policy. This shift occurred because of new requirements associated with federal funding, changes in federal laws, and because using data wisely can improve outcomes for children.

Child and Family Services Reviews

The main impetus for child welfare agencies to focus on measuring their performance was the federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR). The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a process for assessing the performance of states’ child protection and child welfare programs. The result was the CFSR. State data is compared to national standards, and states need to be in substantial conformity with the federal benchmarks. States must develop a program improvement plan (PIP) for areas in which they are not in substantial conformity, and they face substantial financial penalties if they do not make timely progress in improving their performance. Click here for information about Georgia's Program Improvement Plan and other quality improvement efforts.

The Barton Center was a key partner of the Georgia Department of Human Services during Georgia’s first CFSR in 2001. The Barton Center hosted the Department’s CFSR web site and actively participated in the review and the PIP development and implementation.

In 2011 the Barton Center provided public comments on proposed revisions by the Federal Administration for Children and Families to Federal Monitoring of Child and Family Services Programs, 45 CFR Parts 1355, 1356 and 1357.

Fostering Court Improvement

The growing national emphasis on collaboration between dependency courts and child welfare agencies, along with the increased attention to using data to improve court outcomes, led the Barton Center to partner with other universities to create Fostering Court Improvement (FCI), which provides states with a platform of shared data from which the court and child welfare agency can manage systems expressly designed to improve outcomes for children and families.

In late 2006, the Barton Center, the Children and Family Research Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Fostering Results, and the ABA Center on Children and the Law’s National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues launched FCI. FCI converts existing data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) into reports that inform the core work of both dependency courts and child welfare agencies. The service to states is provided through the basic web service that is supported by grants and volunteers at no cost to either the court or the agency.

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