A public child welfare agency must have an ongoing assessment of its information capacity and a plan to address any gaps in practice that diminish the value of information within the organization and among stakeholders. The systematic evaluation of the information management system gives leaders the ability to track meaningful, accurate and timely data to measure agency performance and the impact on outcomes for all populations of children, youth and families served.
The leadership team will define a concrete set of outcomes as target goals related to information management. The focus of the evaluation process will be to collect data and perform analyses to inform potential programmatic or policy changes. As changes in programs and policies are made, the outcomes are monitored to determine if shifts have occurred as a result of the changes. This process is repeated as adjustments are made.
Another important aspect of the information management plan is to see that the collected data are routinely monitored for their relevance. To that end, evaluation strategies must be developed that align with the agency’s strategic plan. With limited resources, public child welfare agencies may benefit from strategic partnerships that support competent evaluation of collected data and the link to strategic goals. Agency-University partnerships are one example of a synergistic partnership allowing for the monitoring and evaluation of the information management plan.
Agency leaders should also develop a mechanism for monitoring staff data collection and recording methods. Data collection is done in a variety of methods and involves administering instruments and gathering and organizing responses. Agency staff should be trained based on the specific method of data collection. These include but are not limited to observations, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews and data collected from existing documents. No matter what the prescribed method, the information management system should include system compliance mechanisms to identify, when possible, if a data element was recorded incorrectly. Agency staff may also examine the information derived from the various data collection methods for consistency and