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Since 1989, WRMA has worked on behalf of the federal Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) to provide technical and logistical support in the design, implementation, and maintenance of a national data collection and reporting system on child maltreatment. Three sequential contracts have been successfully completed and a fourth is currently in process. The overriding goal of the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) project has been to meet congressional mandates for a voluntary national data collection and analysis program on child maltreatment. Since the inception of the project, there have been several phases to NCANDS.
The first phase consisted of a series of meetings with national experts and representatives from all states to identify data requirements for the system. This phase resulted in the design of a two-component reporting system in order to maximize state participation by accepting aggregate reporting (the Summary Data Component, or SDC), while developing the ability to capture case-specific data from states with the capacity to do so (the Detailed Case Data Component, or DCDC). This design enabled all states to participate to some degree during the very first year of reporting. The second phase of the implementation of NCANDS introduced the DCDC. Pilot tests were conducted, record layouts tested, and data submission protocols developed. During the first year of the collection of case-specific data, 13 states participated. During this phase, the continuance of annual technical assistance meetings and of a State Advisory Group contributed to the evolving sense of ownership of the system by the federal government and the participating states. WRMA ability to meet the needs of federal partners, while simultaneously working with each state to address its unique data collection, infrastructure, and technological circumstance, has been key to the ongoing success of the project.
The third and current phase has seen the acceptance of NCANDS data for national reporting in many venues, including the newly implemented Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR). Moreover, NCANDS was updated during this phase to meet new congressionally mandated reporting requirements. Due in part to the continued technical assistance provided to the states, 49 states provided case-specific data for the 2005 federal fiscal year (FFY) 2005 and 51 states (including the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) provided case-specific data for fiscal year 2006. Thus, the transition from an aggregate data collection system to case-level data collection is largely complete. The technical assistance provided to states has included assistance on data construction, extraction, reporting, and analysis. It was provided by phone, on-site, and at the annual technical assistance meeting.
Following the collection, validation, and analysis of more than three million electronic records, the data are released annually in a report entitled "Child Maltreatment". In addition to the core analysis, ad-hoc analyses are conducted as needed and trend data have twice been compiled and analyzed. "Child Maltreatment" is an attractive, comprehensive, and user-friendly tool for decision-makers at the federal, state, county, and private agency levels, as well as an indispensable support for planning and evaluation by child welfare researchers and practitioners across the country. The data collected by NCANDS are used in policy and program assessments by the Children's Bureau to improve the delivery of child welfare services, particularly child protective services. These assessments have been used to address questions regarding living arrangements of children who were found to be maltreated, effectiveness of services provided by state agencies, and recurrence of child abuse and neglect.
Behind the scenes of this successful project, WRMA has provided technical and logistical support for several multilevel meetings each year for various configurations of NCANDS constituents. A key goal of these meetings is to bring program, research, advocacy, and technical people together to enhance communication and to provide for cross-fertilization of concepts and applications in creative and substantive ways.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Child Maltreatment 2007.
The annual report, Child Maltreatment, includes more than 50 data tables and figures on the provision of child protective services to children who are abused or neglected. The report is recognized as the leading reference on child abuse statistics in the nation.