Steps to Starting FCI in Your State:
- Getting Agreement from the State Child Welfare Agency to Release Data:
The state child welfare agency collects and houses the data sources (AFCARS and NCANDS) that are used for the FCI website. Obtaining their cooperation to share the data with FCI is key to moving forward. The agency will need to agree to release these data to FCI.
- AFCARS: Every state must submit their AFCARS data to the federal government biannually. The child welfare agency will need to send FCI the same file that is submitted to the federal government. Staff at FCI will work with the child welfare agency to transfer the data set. AFCARS data must be obtained to develop the FCI website.
- NCANDS: Since states are not mandated to submit all elements of this dataset, states are at different places in regards to gathering and storing this information. The FCI website can be created without this data source; however, the website can not contain safety measures without NCANDS data.
The website can be updated more frequently if the data are submitted to FCI more frequently.
- Signing the Data Sharing Agreement:
Once the court and child welfare agency have discussed this project and are ready to move forward, a data sharing agreement will need to be signed between the University of North Carolina (where the data are stored) and the state child welfare agency. This data sharing agreement contains basic information about how the data will be used, confidentiality issues, expectations of the state child welfare agency etc. Download the data sharing agreement.
Processing the data sharing agreement:
- If the child welfare agency wants to make changes to the data sharing agreement, the changes should be made directly to the document using 'track changes' and emailed to Melinda Lis, see contact page. Please note that any changes made to the agreement must be reviewed by the University's legal counsel and may require negotiations between the two parties.
- If the child welfare agency is able to sign the data sharing agreement without any changes, two copies should be signed and then Melinda Lis should be contacted, see contact page, to obtain information about where to send the signed copies.
- Working out Logistics:
The court and child welfare agency will need to make some decisions about the website before it goes live. Some of the decisions include:
- Will the FCI website be password protected or open to the general public?
- If the website is password protected, who will be given access to the website and how will the password be distributed?
- How often will the updates to the website occur? AFCARS are submitted bi-annually and NCANDS, if submitted, are done so annually. The majority of states opt to have the data updated biannually as the AFCARS data are submitted; however, the website can be updated more frequently if the data are submitted to FCI more frequently.
- How will the court and child welfare agency work collaboratively to use the data to improve outcomes for children and families? Obtaining the data is just the first step. It is essential that stakeholders become familiar with the data and understand how it is integrated within their work to help guide system reform.
- What training will staff receive regarding these data?
- Submitting Data to FCI:
Once the agreement has been signed, the child welfare agency can begin to submit the data. Currently states submit their data to FCI differently based upon their preference. Some states put the information on a CD and mail it to FCI and some states put the data on a secure website and ask that the data be downloaded. FCI will work with the child welfare agency to obtain these data. Melinda Lis from FCI will coordinate this process, see contact page. Once the data are submitted and checked for accuracy, it takes less than one month to create the state's website.
- Checking the Data:
FCI recommends that once the website is created, several key stakeholders review the data for accuracy. Once the review of the data has occurred, the state will be responsible for informing key stakeholders of the existence of the website and how to access the information.
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