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Fostering Court Improvement Mission

Fostering Court Improvement is committed to provide every state in the nation a platform of shared data from which the Dependency Court and the Child Welfare Agency can manage systems expressly designed to improve outcomes for children and families.

Overview of Fostering Court Improvement

Since the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, increased attention has been focused on the need for improved collaboration between the two principal government organizations responsible for safeguarding of abused and neglected children: the child welfare agency and the dependency court. The safety, permanency, and well being of children in foster care and at risk of foster care placement depend on these two entities successfully measuring and continually improving outcomes at the local level.

Fostering Court Improvement (FCI) combines expertise developed at the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University and the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina to convert existing data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) into reports that inform the core work of both dependency courts and child welfare agencies. FCI provides an efficient mechanism to share data that already exist within the states through reports specifically designed for facilitated discussions among local decision makers. We do this through our basic web service supported by grants and volunteers at no cost to either the court or the agency. This powerful web-based tool can be used to supplement and enhance existing data systems within the court and the child welfare agency. While there are many approaches to data collection, reporting and analysis, FCI chooses to use existing data, currently available in every state, as the starting point for a rich discussion of outcomes for children and families.

FCI utilizes a software program that stitches together the AFCARS submissions that child welfare agencies are required to submit to the federal government every six months into a longitudinal view of the children in foster care. The same software also stitches together NCANDS child-level data, as reported annually by nearly all states, into reports on the safety of children at risk of foster care placement. All calculations and definitions are validated against external sources in the many FCI-participating states, and all source code files are freely available.

The software organizes the reports by judicial district, county, and child welfare region. The reports are further organized by entry, in-care, and exit cohorts. The measures and their presentation on the website have been carefully designed and refined through continuous field-testing specifically for use in facilitated discussions among local dependency court participants. Each state website provides approved users with all the raw ingredients needed to build compelling data presentations for non-technical staff.

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