Over the last decade, there has been increasing interest in government transparency. Many people believe that an open government promotes accountability and allows citizens to better understand how their taxpayer dollars are spent. For particularly sensitive government functions – such as the public child welfare system – there is even more interest in understanding whether or not the system is actually doing what it is supposed to do: keeping vulnerable children and families safe and healthy.

Through a data-sharing agreement with our team at Partners for Our Children, Washington’s DSHS Children’s Administration is at the forefront of the move toward transparency within public child welfare systems. Over a year ago, the Washington State Child Well-Being Data Portal launched to provide access to data about the vulnerable children and families who interact with the system in our state.

The Data Portal has been instrumental in decision-making for many professions across the state – everyone from policymakers to family court judges to advocacy partners have found the tool to be valuable in helping understand how the system is working and what areas may need improvement.

There are only a handful of other states that have made their child welfare data accessible online, including California, Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina and most recently, Colorado.

At Partners for Our Children, we believe this level of transparency is absolutely critical in order to improve the system. Simple data analysis can bring so much to life – how does a particular policy or practice change really affect these children? Are these changes improving outcomes? What areas of the system could be improved?

Further, with today’s technology, we can do so much more to help people easily access and understand data – going beyond complex spreadsheets with rows and rows of numbers. Today, we can create clean, easy-to-understand data visualizations orcustom county reports that automatically update with newly available data. Simply put, there are now countless ways to share data in meaningful ways.

If your state is looking into developing an online tool to improve transparency within the child welfare system, let us know – email us at info@partnersforourchildren.org. We would be more than happy to discuss our development process – right down to our own trials and tribulations. We are very proud of our finished product and want nothing more than to share our learnings with others.