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Data Infrastructure Needs

Given the wealth of existing data and the significant investments that are being made to develop common information in the child welfare sector, we do not think that a new residential services information system is the appropriate way to go. Initiatives like OCANDS demonstrate how programming and data analytics can be used to effectively combine information across different platforms. While some information collection systems require some enhancements – Serious Occurrence Reports are currently faxed into regional offices, Crown Ward Review data are provided to children’s aid societies in spreadsheets, CPIN has limited cross-sector information sharing capacity and there is no comprehensive strategy for using the data to inform policy – we have concluded that a focused investment in developing programming and data analysis capacity would be more effective and expedient than creating new data collection systems dedicated to residential care.

In addition to developing the analytic infrastructure for making better use of existing data, a commitment to a standard and comprehensive set of public reports is a powerful mechanism for ensuring that data are used and for creating incentives for improving data quality. The Ministry is currently reporting on several child welfare indicators and on important trends in Youth Justice. These initiatives could be significantly expanded by including a broader array of indicators. In Chapter 10, we review many of the indicators used in other jurisdictions and present a framework for selecting key indicators that should be reported on an annual basis. We also discuss some of the analytic issues that have to be addressed before reporting publicly on meaningful data comparing service providers.

One of the information and data challenges that will need to be addressed will be finding effective methods to track young people who experience placements across different sectors. The sector-specific information systems that are currently in place fail to provide a good mechanism for tracking and understanding the placement trajectories of these “cross-over” youth. Given that these are some of the most vulnerable young people in residential care, it is critical that enhancements made to existing information systems provide the Ministry with the ability to track and analyze the service trajectories and outcomes for these young people.

Along with enhancing the Ministry’s data analytic capacity, service providers and independent researchers also need to be supported to make better use of the data that they produce. Independent researchers should be encouraged to access non-identifying data to conduct more in depth analyses of these administrative datasets. In addition, research studies based on selected samples of young people in residential care are important tools to generate more nuanced and in-depth understanding of the experiences of young people and the outcomes of services.