Friday, August 20, 2010

What we know and what we need to find out

After an inclusive strategic planning process, the Early Intervention and Prevention (EIP) Initiative was launched in July 2010. Ten strategies were identified that, when successfully implemented, will help keep our children, youth and families free from child abuse, neglect and delinquency and will reduce the need for child welfare and juvenile justice interventions.

We believe that the EIP Initiative has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence rates of child abuse, neglect and delinquency in our community and lower the public cost of dealing with these tragic events. In order for us to be able to show whether our efforts are successful, we must be able to measure the current rates of child abuse, neglect and delinquency--what we call a "baseline" measurement, meaning the situation before we start trying to change things--and then to measure the rate of change as the EIP Initiative continues over the next three years.

Part of the challenge is that most of the information we need is not readily available. The Indiana Department of Child Services publishes aggregate reports on their website on various aspects of the child abuse/neglect problem in Marion County and across the state, but these do not include the raw data necessary for further analysis and do not include information on some key indicators for the EIP Initiative such as public costs for DCS services or number of first-time incidents. Juvenile court data reflecting delinquency incidence rates are much harder to find, since access to minors' court records is legally restricted (unless a legitimate need to know is shown).

In June, July and August, MCCOY met with a number of experts to advise us on which data sets are needed to measure the EIP Initiative's effectiveness in reducing child abuse, neglect and delinquency, keeping families out of "the system" and reducing public costs, and how to obtain those data sets. We have prepared and submitted formal Requests for Information to the Department of Child Services and the Indiana Supreme Court to begin collecting these data in a systematic way. Our next step is to populate a Data Collection & Dissemination Team to oversee analysis of the raw data to measure whether the EIP Initiative is having a positive impact and guide our community reporting efforts.

If you have a knack for data, know the child welfare or juvenile justice systems inside and out, or have a passion for keeping children safe and out of trouble, we want you to join the Data Collection & Dissemination Team! We need people who can help us tell the story behind the numbers and what they mean to the children and families in our community as well as hard data lovers, so there is room on this team for everyone who can help us spread the word about our impact. If you are interested in participating or simply want to find out more, please e-mail Shanna Malott at

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