Roundtable: Bridging the Agency-Academic Divide to Integrate Data and Serve “the Whole Child”
(Family and Child Policy)

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 8 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Della Jenkins, University of Pennsylvania
Moderator:  Della Jenkins, University of Pennsylvania
Speakers:  Cassandra Dorius, Iowa State University, Betsy Richey, Iowa Department of Public Health, Kristina Trastek, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and Hilary Shager, University of Wisconsin

Government data systems often reflect the siloed agencies and departments through which governments deliver services. Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) at the University of Pennsylvania works with state and local governments to break down those silos and collaborate with diverse stakeholders to build Integrated Data Systems (IDS). IDS link administrative data across government agencies for a more comprehensive view of individuals, families, and communities. Since 2008, AISP has coordinated a national network of jurisdictions operating IDS in order to surface how policies and practices effect the individuals they serve.

While this may sound like a technical project, an IDS is primarily relational, involving an ever-growing ecosystem of agency staff, executive leaders, community stakeholders, practitioners, and researchers. During this roundtable, AISP will describe the national context in which IDS have proliferated in recent years and also address how they enable researchers and practitioners to jointly engage with evidence and improve public policy.

AISP will be joined by presenters from two states—Wisconsin and Iowa— actively using IDS to support state child and family policy priorities. Two individuals will represent each state in the roundtable: one from a child and family-serving agency and another from a local university engaged in IDS partnership with the state. Although significant challenges exist, both states have found that investing in researcher-practitioner partnerships and IDS can lead to a culture of evidence-informed policymaking that is both beneficial to the public and rewarding for researchers. 

Wisconsin’s Administrative Data Core was developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), evolving from a series of large-scale evaluation projects conducted for the state starting in the 1980s. This extensive IDS, which includes data from a broad range of agencies, (e.g., child welfare, health services, corrections) allows for cross-program comparisons and analysis that would not be possible using a single agency’s data. Wisconsin’s Early Childhood IDS (ECIDS), a second, more specialized IDS, was developed beginning in 2011 through a grant and collaboration between three state agencies –the Departments of Children & Families, Public Instruction, and Health Services. It now provides daily refreshed, cross-departmental information to internal analysts to guide decision-making and improve early childhood outcomes.

In Iowa, a similar state-university IDS partnership grew from a legislative mandate through Early Childhood Iowa (ECI), commissioning state departments within Iowa’s Birth-to-Five system to collaborate and coordinate. The IDS currently includes data from Departments of Public Health, Education, Human Services, Human Rights, and Head Start grantees and has initially focused on supporting school readiness. With recent funding from the CDC and leadership from the Department of Public Health, Iowa is also using their IDS to understand two-generational issues related to substance use by studying the experiences of parents with young children and considering policy recommendations for public health.

During this roundtable, presenters will draw the audience into a discussion about their experiences navigating the divide between their agencies, organizational cultures and priorities to build shared data capacity and better understand and serve children and families in complex ecosystems.

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