Child Welfare: States Face Challenges in Developing Information Systems and Reporting Reliable Child Welfare Data

GAO-04-267T Published: Nov 19, 2003. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 2003.
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To better monitor children and families served by state child welfare agencies, Congress authorized matching funds for the development of statewide automated child welfare information systems (SACWIS) and required that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) compile information on the children served by state agencies. This testimony is based on our July 2003 report and addresses the following: (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. For the July 2003 report, we surveyed all 50 states and the District of Columbia regarding their experiences developing and using information systems and their ability to report data to HHS. We also reviewed a variety of HHS documents and visited five states to obtain firsthand information. Finally, we interviewed HHS officials and child welfare and data experts and reviewed relevant literature.

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