By JooYeun Chang, Associate Commissioner, Children’s Bureau
In an age when technology exists to connect us all at lightning speed day and night, obstacles that once slowed down progress are quickly fading away.
A great example of that evolution is taking place at my agency.
This week, the Children’s Bureau, announced our investment in a new web-based tool to help states place foster care children with families quickly and with more efficiency.
In the past, states kept thorough paper records to track youth safely in the child welfare system. This necessary, but old way of doing business for decades often delayed foster care placement. Imagine having to transfer those paper files from one state to another. That takes time – time that children in care simply don’t have. Weeks or months are added to the process before that child gets to see his or her new home.
All that changes this week, thanks to a project funded by our three-year, $3.6 million grant.
The Children’s Bureau is supporting a new project by the American Public Human Services Association and its affiliate, the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, to scale up a pilot that connects state agencies in real time. An online tool — the National Electronic Interstate Compact Enterprise (NEICE) —allows state office systems to talk to each other electronically.
NEICE provides states an easy system to exchange data and documents. Data entered differently in one state is automatically translated into another state’s framework with just a push of a button.
To show its potential, the NEICE was piloted in six states in the last 17 months. Results were promising:
- Since August 2014, more than 6,000 children from the six states were entered to the system
- 4,000 children received placements across state lines
- Of those interstate placements, waiting times were reduced 20 to 40 percent
Average waiting times were cut by a third. We at the Children’s Bureau are ready to help take this effort to the next level.
This new system has the potential to help youth in the child welfare system in a number of ways. When fully implemented, NEICE will allow 52 states and territories who participate in the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children to share information on children’s health, education and risks (e.g. human trafficking and homelessness).
The future looks bright for foster youth.
For more than 100 years, the Children’s Bureau has focused on improving the lives of children and families through programs that reduce child abuse and neglect, increase the number of adoptions, and strengthen foster care.
I’m happy to say that we continue to achieve this mission in our second century of existence by investing in innovations that help our partners serve our most vulnerable citizens.