Client: The North Dakota Court Improvement Committee (CIP)

The Challenge: The CIP, under the auspices of the Supreme Court and in concert with the Department of Human Services (DHS), was seeking to broaden its evaluation of performance in child abuse and neglect cases. Courts commonly evaluate processes, such as case timeliness and protection of due process rights but spend less effort on measuring long-term outcomes (e.g., permanency and safety) for children in the child welfare system.

At the same time, performance measures are not effective absent a framework to collect accurate, reliable and consistent data. Quality data allows the child welfare system's performance to be evaluated, policy prescriptions developed and resources optimally allocated.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, American Bar Association, National Center for State Courts, the Pew Foundation and others promote performance measurement in these cases. The CIP received a federal data collection and analysis grant for enhancing performance management for North Dakota.

Our Approach

  • Determine a manageable number of performance measures most relevant to North Dakota.
  • Identify a group of children for performance evaluation over time; analyze whether outcomes vary with child age, ethnicity and location.
  • Define the data essential to measure performance and identify which systems, if any, contain the data.
  • Design business rules for extracting this data and validate them using a sample of children. Refine measures and business rules, as needed.
  • Analyze case and data entry flow and the quality of data. Recommend case processing improvements and data quality enhancements.

Our Approach

  • Selected eleven performance measures that provide a balanced view of child safety, permanency, timeliness and protection of due process rights.
  • Provided performance snapshots from the first year and options for how results can be displayed for multiple years when available.
  • Identified those business practices and data entry protocols that hinder evaluation such as inconsistent definition of a case (Does a case consist of a child, a family? When is a case considered closed?) and incomplete children's identifying information, such as date of birth.
  • Recommended automated system upgrades to enhance flexibility and allow performance reports to be assembled in-house instead of by outside vendors.
  • Outlined an ongoing data quality assurance program.

Consultants: Kate Harrison, Curtis DeClue, Tara Jen Ambrosio, Wendy Constantine, Ian Shepherd

For more information about this project, please click here to request the Executive Summary.

Go to Next Case Study