Delivering on the Promise of Data Exchange and Interoperability

August 29, 2018
Colleagues sharing information and data in a business meeting

By Steven Wagner, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families

In May, I committed ACF to an Interoperability Action Plan with the goal of expanding data sharing initiatives within ACF and beyond. This action plan supports and strengthens the ReImagine HHS focus on aligning programs and “Putting People in the Center of HHS Programs,” which is taking a fresh approach on serving individuals and families and re-imagining our programs and service delivery models. To be successful, this effort requires “all hands on deck.”

ACF’s Interoperability Action Plan (IAP) details specific expectations for all ACF programs to:

  • Implement and expand information sharing across our programs and partners across government, to address mission needs while minimizing cost and complexity
  • Maximize the reuse of data, integrated systems, and promising practices for data-informed decision making and streamlined client engagement
  • Address impediments to sharing information and harmonize processes to encourage innovation while reducing risk, administrative burden, and cost

This work requires intensive coordination. Individually, ACF programs have had limited ability to pursue interoperability, which is inherently a multi-program endeavor. In previous years there was little connective tissue between programs to drive progress on these issues, but no longer.

The Division of Data & Improvement (DDI) in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation was created with this purpose in mind and is charged with (among other responsibilities) leading the execution of Interoperability Action Plan. DDI is a cross-disciplinary team that approaches interoperability and data sharing through the lenses of policy, practice, privacy, and technology, with a focus on the whole person/whole family.

At my direction, DDI convened an internal ACF community of interest to facilitate implementation of the Interoperability Action Plan. We will continue to engage states and local jurisdictions, many of whom are leading the way in innovative practices working with the ACF Office of Regional Operations, the American Public Human Services Association, and others. These state and regional conversations are vital in informing ACF’s work.

Interoperability, data integration, and data-informed decision-making are essential elements in the delivery of effective human service programs. This Action Plan represents a major step toward achieving an integrated human services ecosystem. But to succeed, we must continue to learn, grow, and evolve as an organization and as a human services enterprise.

So join us. Let’s make this happen.

For questions on interoperability and data sharing, contact us at the ACF Data Sharing Assistance Center at