HHS Connects Predictive Analytics Contract to Child Fatality Commission

As we reported Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services responded with a lukewarm reception to the recommendations of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF).

YSI-MB-PageOne of CECANF’s highlighted recommendations was that HHS work with states to conduct five-year reviews of maltreatment-related fatalities, and develop plans to improve fatality prevention. Read Thursday’s YSI for the details, but the HHS response was essentially: not a problem, we’ll need more money from Congress to do it, and also we aren’t convinced a five-year study will produce meaningful data in many states or counties because of sample size.

One response HHS gave caught our eye. CECANF proposed that HHS provide “national standards,” methodology and technical assistance for this five-year state review process, and further proposed that HHS attain the capacity to “apply the latest statistical and big data techniques to the problem of preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities.”

HHS’ reply to both proposals was the same:

HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation has recently awarded a contract on the topic of predictive analytics in child welfare that includes an option to develop a suggested data analysis methodology to examine fatality data that states could adopt or adapt if they choose to undertake an analysis such as what the Commission suggests. Exercising the option will be dependent on the availability of funds in FY 2017.

News to us! Indeed, we discovered, HHS has a contract with the McLean, Va.-based MITRE Corporation to provide a “critical assessment of current efforts to use predictive analytics to improve child welfare practice, consider potential performance impacts of these approaches, and produce several documents for federal and state program and policy officials to help them understand the potential of this emerging field, and provide a realistic assessment of its limitations and key challenges.”

And as the HHS response to CECANF suggests, the contract could be extended to include assistance to states on the five-year review plan:

This project will also suggest options for the federal government to consider to productively facilitate progress in using data to improve child welfare system outcomes through predictive analytics.

Like everything else HHS suggests could be doable on this front, there would likely have to be some serious additional resources approved. The MITRE contract is for two years, through fiscal 2018. Only the first year of funding has been dispersed, and it was just $173,181. Building a national standard-bearing process for conducting reviews with significant child welfare system implications would probably cost a good sum more.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1211 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.