Panel: Promoting Program Improvement through TANF Data Innovation
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
8224 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Kinsey Dinan, New York City Department of Social Services
Discussants:  Nicole Deterding, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Integrating Data to Strengthen TANF
Adelia Jenkins, University of Pennsylvania

This panel introduces the TANF Data Innovations (TDI) project, a new collaboration between the Federal government, research contractors, universities, and states to improve data use in TANF and related human services. TDI will support states’ data integration and analysis efforts, advancing the use of evidence to improve the lives of low-income families. The President’s 2018 budget highlights TDI as an example of new initiatives using administrative data to accelerate evidence building and program improvement.

Sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF), TDI begins by describing the field. This includes conducting a comprehensive needs assessment of state TANF agencies and engaging a range of stakeholders to understand current efforts—and common challenges—in setting up, linking, and operating data systems to support program improvement.

Then, TDI will provide technical assistance addressing common challenges in data integration and use, building state and local capacity to meet TANF administrators’ need for information to make decisions. This may involve understanding changing dynamics of welfare caseloads, identifying common pathways from cash assistance, or predicting who may benefit from specific social services. Tools will range from simple ways to understand caseloads to state-of-the-art machine learning and data visualization techniques.  

The TDI project brings together leaders in evidence-based policy making. Their prior work includes projects to advance data integration; improve the storage and sharing data; engage state officials in work with their data; and build state-of-the-art data science tools for human services. Through these efforts, the TDI team has built a dynamic peer network of universities, state and Federal officials, and research contractors.  Such collaborations are vital to achieving the goals of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and improving the efficacy of human services.

This panel highlights work foundational to TDI. First, Robert Goerge from Chapin Hall describes the work of the Family Self Sufficiency Data Center, and how lessons learned from their work with states informs TDI’s approach to needs assessment.

Second, Adelia Jenkins from the University of Pennsylvania reports on Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy’s pioneering efforts to develop a learning community of state and local officials for data integration. TDI will expand AISP’s efforts in other human service areas to include TANF agencies.

Third, Julia Lane from NYU will describe the Administrative Records Data Facility’s model of data integration and data science. Highlighted in the final report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, this will inform technical training provided by TDI.

Finally, Richard Hendra of MDRC will provide an overview of the TDI project, building on all of these efforts. He will preview the project’s innovative approach to training and building the field.

Nicole Deterding, a member of the project team at ACF, will serve as discussant, situating TDI within the landscape of recent Federal and state initiatives to integrate human services data for three central business processes: enrollment & eligibility verification; case management; and systems management.

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