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Feb 11 -- The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is requesting approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a new primary data collection about connected child welfare data. We define connected data as child welfare data that are linked or integrated with data from other systems or agencies. The State Child Welfare Data Linkages Descriptive Study (SCW Descriptive Study) will gather systematic information on the extent to which states connect their child maltreatment data to other data sets; how any linked data sets are created, managed, and used; and challenges states face in linking data. Comments are due by April 12, 2022.
 
ACF publishes an annual Child Maltreatment report series. States provide child maltreatment data for this report via the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), a voluntary, national data collection and analysis program to make available state child abuse and neglect information. Data have been collected every year since 1991 and are collected from child welfare agencies in the 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
 
The SCW Descriptive Study will examine the extent to which child welfare agencies in 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, link administrative data on child maltreatment to data in other systems and to learn more about states' practices related to sharing and linking data. The study aims to inform the ongoing and accurate surveillance of child maltreatment and identify facilitators and barriers to connected data efforts (integrated data or linked data).

These data are not available from existing sources. This study aims to present an internally valid description of the data capacity of participating state child welfare agencies, not to promote statistical generalization to different sites or service populations.

Respondents include state child welfare directors, designated state child welfare agency staff (identified by a state child welfare director as having knowledge about the state's connected data efforts), and designated county staff (identified by a state child welfare director as having knowledge about a county's connected data efforts).
 
The SCW Descriptive Study will gather systematic information on the extent to which states connect their child maltreatment data to other state and county data sets; how any connected data sets are created, managed, and used; and challenges states face in linking data. These data are not available from existing sources. The SCW Descriptive Study aims to provide important information to the field by documenting the capacity of state child welfare agencies to link data sets with other agencies. This study aims to present an internally valid description of the connected data capacity of participating state child welfare agencies, not to promote statistical generalization to different sites or service populations. This request includes the following data collection instruments:

Instrument 1: Initial Survey – to be used with state child welfare directors or their designee to provide high-level information on connected data efforts and inform the remaining data collection activities

Instrument 2: Connected Data Survey – to collect more detailed information about connected data efforts from staff with expertise as identified by the child welfare director or their designee

Instrument 3: Interview Guide – to capture more nuanced aspects of each state’s experiences creating, managing, or using connected data from state child welfare directors and additional state and county staff

We do not intend for this information to be used as the principal basis for public policy decisions.  
 
Child maltreatment remains a serious problem in the United States. In fiscal year 2019, child protective services agencies nationwide received about 4.4 million referrals for allegations of abuse or neglect. A study found about 656,000 of these children to be victims of abuse or neglect (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] 2021). Child maltreatment affects numerous individual and family outcomes related to health, employment, relationships, and self-sufficiency (Currie and Widom 2010; Danese et al. 2009; Jonson-Reid et al. 2012). The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires the examination of a wide range of topics related to the incidence of child maltreatment with the aim of informing efforts to better protect children from maltreatment and improve the well-being of victims of maltreatment. Accurate and ongoing surveillance of the incidence of child maltreatment and related risk and protective factors can inform policy and programs as well as shape prevention and intervention efforts.  

One promising approach to capturing information regarding child maltreatment is by linking local, state, or federal administrative records, such as those from child welfare, health, social services, education, public safety, and other agencies. This approach could improve the quality, usefulness, interoperability, and availability of child maltreatment data. Connected administrative data provide a growing opportunity to accurately capture the incidence of child maltreatment and related risk and protective factors. Administrative data typically are collected by public agencies and may include client-level service records, other documentation of program implementation, records of transactions or registrations, or similar information (Connelly et al. 2016).  

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) is proposing a new primary data collection about connected child maltreatment data in an effort to expand knowledge related to the capacity of administrative data to examine child maltreatment incidence and related risk and protective factors and address CAPTA research topics.  
 
The SCW Descriptive Study will provide information of interest regarding how best to move forward in understanding the child maltreatment incidence and related risks and protective factors through connected administrative data. We define connected data as state child welfare administrative data that are linked or integrated with administrative data from other state or county systems or agencies. The SCW Descriptive Study will provide ACF with information on the extent to which states connect their child maltreatment data to other data sets, whether by linking or integration; information on how any connected data sets are created, managed, and used; and challenges to linking data. This information may be used by ACF to support the ongoing and accurate surveillance of child maltreatment. It may be used by state agency staff to identify data linkage needs and promising practices to address those needs.  

Information from the SCW Descriptive Study may be disseminated through briefs, reports, and other publicly available products. We will develop products that are useful to a variety of audiences, including child maltreatment researchers as well as state and federal agency staff. Survey data may be archived, as appropriate. Making the data available to other researchers may enable them to conduct additional, secondary data analyses of interest.

The information collected is meant to contribute to the body of knowledge on ACF programs. It is not intended to be used as the principal basis for a decision by a federal decision-maker, and is not expected to meet the threshold of influential or highly influential scientific information.   

The SCW Descriptive Study will explore the following research questions:

1. Which states link their child maltreatment data with other state administrative data sources?
2. Which states share their child maltreatment data? With whom do they share data?
3. How are state data linkages used for policy, practice, and/or research purposes?
4. What methods or approaches are used to link state data?
5. What policies, practices, or resources support connected state child maltreatment data?  
 
National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/data-research/ncands
ACF Child Maltreatment Report series https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/data-research/child-maltreatment
 
Draft ICR materials for State Child Welfare Data Linkages Study, including survey instruments and technical documentation: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6uulvi9u98r1ozp/AAAjA-8uYVbSKx3-IPbeDKQYa?dl=0
FR notice inviting comment: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/02/11/2022-02928/proposed-information-collection-activity-opre-data-collection-for-state-child-welfare-data-linkages

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