Saturday, June 10, 2017
[San Diego County] Grand jury questions lack of data on foster care outcomes
San Diego County taxpayers invest some $200 million annually in child welfare services, but the county doesn’t collect data to measure the effectiveness of its efforts, according to new grand jury report.
The grand jury, a civil watchdog group, wanted to see the county’s research on how many of the children in its foster care system continued to rely on public welfare as adults — a key measure of the program’s effectiveness, according to a report released this week. But there was no research to review because the county does not track such outcomes for its foster care alumni.
Without outcome data and research, the county can’t answer key questions such as how much the county’s foster children cost society as young adults and whether fine-tuning foster care services could save money while helping more children succeed, the report said.
County officials told the grand jury they don’t collect outcome data because of privacy concerns, according to the report. Officials also noted that there’s no law authorizing collection of such data.
The grand jury said in its report that other governments collect the data without violating former foster children’s privacy. All the examples included in the report were state-government-level systems such as Oregon Department of Human Services and the State of Washington Department of Social and Health Services.
The report cited various studies that used outcome data from other foster care systems to identify skill sets associated with success in adulthood, such as finishing high school instead of earning a high school equivalency certificate, commonly known as a GED. Identifying those skills and focusing money and effort on services and programs to cultivate them could save money and ensure a brighter future for more foster children, the grand jury found.
The report recommended that the county work with a local university to analyze the effectiveness of the foster care system’s programs and services. It also suggested the county use existing databases to determine how many foster care alumni end up on welfare or in the justice system in adulthood.
A spokesman said Thursday that the county is reviewing the grand jury’s recommendation and will develop a formal response to the report in the required timeframe of 90 days.
June 8, 2017
The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Morgan Cook