Tips On Using Data
- Clean up your data before drawing conclusions from it. Be sure that you’re clear on what questions you’re trying to answer by analyzing your data so you look at the right data elements for your inquiry.
- Use training and supervision to ensure that staff understand the importance of accurate, consistent, and timely data entry.
- Track and analyze data on the reasons for needing to make placement moves. Identify common themes among reasons for unplanned placement moves to identify where there may be gaps in services or areas for improvement in placement decisions.
- Map the location of your current foster, adoptive, and kinship families. Map the locations where families can receive support (e.g., respite care providers, support group meeting locations, etc.) and look at whether the services are available in the communities where your families live.
- Use a data dashboard to make it easy for staff to see data on a weekly or monthly basis and to see how the data changes over time. Share data on key areas such as placement stability, percentage of sibling groups placed together, the number of families that made it through the licensing or approval process, etc. Your data dashboard could be as simple as a bulletin board or dry-erase board with updated data highlights.
Questions to Discuss with Colleagues
- What are some new ways, other than demographics, to look at our data to understand our population of children and youth in foster care? Examples include:
- number of previous placements
- number of children and youth placed with relatives
- zip code of home of removal
- whether placed with siblings
- whether specific groups of children and youth are overrepresented in foster care
- How often should we review and analyze our data and update our profile of the characteristics of children and youth in care?
- What formats and types of analysis of our data on the characteristics of children and youth in care will be most helpful to inform our work (e.g., dashboard-style data profiles, trend data and point-in-time data, etc.)? What data is currently tracked, both at the local and State level? What are the sources of this data, and who can readily access it?
- How often do we currently review and analyze our data and update our profile of current pool of available foster and adoptive placement resources? How often should we do these reviews and analyses in the future?
- How do we assess whether there is a disparity between the needs and characteristics of children and youth and the pool of available families who are prepared to meet those needs?
- How do we integrate our CQI efforts with our recruitment and retention efforts? How can our CQI approach help us continue to refine our efforts to develop a pool of foster and adoptive parents?
- What does our current and trend data tell us about feedback from prospective, current, and former foster parents’ satisfaction data, length of placement for each family, number of child-specific placements such as kinship families, whether families are over-placed, and other key factors?
- If we don’t currently have the recruitment and retention data we need, how can we get this data to inform our recruitment efforts?
- What is our process for determining whether families have the skills and abilities needed to meet the needs of specific children and youth, including determining whether prospective parents are able to be concurrent planning families?
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