Illinois Drops Rapid Safety Feedback, A Predictive Analytics Tool

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has ended its use of Rapid Safety Feedback (RSF), a predictive analytics tool that was built in Florida to identify the children reported for maltreatment who are most at risk of serious harm or even death.

“Predictive analytics (wasn’t) predicting any of the bad cases,” DCFS Director B.J. Walker told the Chicago Tribune, which broke the story. “I’ve decided not to proceed with that contract.”

Rapid Safety Feedback was developed by Eckerd Connects, a national multi-service child welfare provider, in its role as a lead entity in Hillsborough County, Florida. Using a predictive analytics model that builds assessments after amassing historical data, Eckerd used RSF to identify the children who could only be returned to their parents with a heightened level of scrutiny by caseworkers.

Since its development, RSF has been adopted statewide by Florida, and picked up by other state systems including Oklahoma, Maine and Connecticut.

Illinois DCFS’ decision to part ways appears, from the Tribune article, to hinge on three factors:

  • Reporters David Jackson and Gary Marx state that “caseworkers were alarmed and overwhelmed by alerts.” The Tribune identified 4,100 children who were assigned a “90 percent or greater probability of death or injury,” which is about 2 percent of the children that received RSF assessments.
  • RSF did not render a high-risk rating for several children who have died after reports for maltreatment. Among them: Semaj Crosby and Itachi Boyle, both under 2 years old, who were investigated for maltreatment multiple times and referred for “intact family” services.
  • The contract was awarded on a no-bid basis to Eckerd and a for-profit partner, Mindshare, by former DCFS Director George Sheldon. Sheldon resigned in June amid controversy that included his awarding of contracts to associates he worked with in his days as director of Florida’s child welfare agency.
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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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