Child Welfare: States Face Challenges in Developing Information Systems and Reporting Reliable Child Welfare Data Page: 3 of 34
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss states' development of
automated child welfare information systems. As you are aware, the
Congress required that the Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) compile information on the children served by state agencies and
authorized federal funds to match those of states for use in the
development of state child welfare information systems. Since 1994,
designated federal matching funds have been available to states to develop
and implement comprehensive case management systems-statewide
automated child welfare information systems (SACWIS)-to manage their
child welfare cases as well as to report child abuse and neglect, foster
care, and adoption information to the federal government. States have the
option to implement a SACWIS or develop different information systems
without using SACWIS funds to support their child welfare agencies and
collect information on their child welfare cases. Regardless of the type of
system a state develops, child welfare caseworkers at the county or local
level are the key personnel who collect and document information on
children and families served by child welfare agencies, in addition to
performing a wide range of services to protect children-such as
investigating child abuse or neglect reports or providing support services
to maintain the children in their homes.
Currently, HHS compiles state-reported child welfare data in two
databases: the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System
(AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System
(NCANDS). HHS relies on the information available in its databases to
analyze and track children's experiences in the child welfare system, to
determine states' performance on federal child welfare outcome measures,
and to report to Congress on children's well being and child welfare
My testimony today will focus on three key issues: (1) states' experiences
in developing child welfare information systems and HHS's role in
assisting in their development; (2) factors that affect the reliability of data
that states collect and report on children served by their child welfare
agencies, and HHS's role in ensuring the reliability of those data; and (3)
practices that child welfare agencies use to overcome challenges
associated with SACWIS development and data reliability. My comments
are based on the findings from our July 2003 report, Child Welfare: Most
States Are Developing Statewide Information Systems, but the
Reliability of Child Welfare Data Could Be Improved (GAO-03-809, July
31, 2003). Those findings were based on our survey of all 50 states and the
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United States. General Accounting Office. Child Welfare: States Face Challenges in Developing Information Systems and Reporting Reliable Child Welfare Data, text, November 19, 2003; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc295092/m1/3/: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.