The ZipRisk Project, spearheaded by the Texas Association for the Protection of Children (TexProtects), is an interactive online map that sorts the state’s zip codes by levels of risk for child maltreatment and neglect. Created in collaboration with University of Texas at Dallas computer sciences program, Alliance Data and its marketing firm Epsilon, ZipRisk gives each zip code an overall risk score in an attempt to help policy-makers, advocates and service deliverers dedicate resources to the highest-need areas.
To use the map, one has to simply scroll over a county, which is color-coded by where it falls on a scale of “overall risk ranking” from one to 1,935. Based on information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and Texas Department of State Health, risk factors include rates of child poverty, substance abuse, teen birth, substantiated child maltreatment, and “child abuse and neglect-related fatalities,” according to the site.
Clicking on a particular region will take you to a bar graph that breaks down the aforementioned factors, as well as ethnic/racial breakdown of that zip code. Using this information is an increasing part of the conversation about employing data analytics and harnessing “big data” to prevent child neglect and maltreatment.
Dana Booker, TexProtects’ director of research, said that the organization’s original goal was to help drive policy toward supporting some of the most underserved areas. “If we come before [legislators] and ask for more prevention dollars, it helps to highlight that these are the high-risk areas that don’t have any type of wrap-around services, you know, in their vicinity,” Booker said. They’ve also received feedback that the map has been helpful to service-deliverers, particularly about how it could guide a conversation around child protective services’ caseloads, which might be different for zip codes at different levels of risk.
The services-oriented facet of the map appears by clicking the “support services” tab, which takes you to a map with pins on the locations of the following facilities or programs:
- Child care
- Domestic violence
- Fatherhood engagement and support
- Health services
- Parent education
- Substance abuse treatment
- Women, infant and child
- Workforce development
ZipRisk’s color-coding by risk covers the whole state of Texas, but the services breakdown is currently focused only on the Dallas area.
Since the map’s April launch, other nonprofit and advocacy groups across Texas have reached out to TexProtects to share information about supportive resources in their own counties, potentially allowing the map to expand. Additionally, “we’ve actually had a few legislative offices reach out to us … saying how easy it has been just to have this information in one place that they can grab quickly,” Booker said.
Booker explained that TexProtects hopes to partner with other organizations developing similar tools and maps to keep ZipRisk, as well as future data-driven projects, useful. “We know there’s not just one way to attend to and address child maltreatment. It has to come from various realms and systems.”