County turns to analytics to better protect at-risk children

County turns to analytics to better protect at-risk children

A county in North Carolina will be using predictive analytics software  to better identify, serve and protect its most-at-risk children.

Over the years, New Hanover County has seen a significant increase in the number of abused and neglected children in its community, with the Department of Social Services now processing 300 reported cases every month. In order to better track risk factors and prioritize cases, the county turned to SAS, a provider of analytics software and solutions, to help it analyze the extensive data it has on the children in its care, identify those most at risk of abuse and prioritize social workers’ caseloads.

The system will also integrate data from the county’s criminal justice and public health systems and notify DSS staff of any changes to a child’s situation, such as an increase of 911 calls from the child’s house, arrests of family members or an increase in school absences. These factors could indicate a more dangerous environment for a child, so alerting caseworkers to these situations can allow them respond with proactive interventions.

The county hopes the system will reduce child fatalities as well as the number children in foster or group homes and residential treatment centers and increase the rate of permanent homes for children. This could help save DSS an estimated $1 million a year.

Other states around the country have adopted similar solutions. Florida’s Department of Children and Families uses SAS Analytics software to improve child welfare practices. More recently, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services partnered with non-profit Eckerd Kids to analyze real-time child welfare data and identify high-risk cases.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.

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