Developing a Data-Driven ACF Workforce

Ignite Project Logo "Welcome to the ACYF Data Portal"

In response to a need to improve the use, understanding, and application of child welfare data, a team from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) pilot tested the application of advanced visual analytics and short training videos for Children’s Bureau regional office staff. Survey results were overwhelmingly positive: Regional office program specialists felt that the new visual tool increased job productivity, and the short training video proved an effective training method. Following Ignite, this team received phase II support from ACF.

Developing a Data-Driven ACF Workforce:
Watch the 5 minute project presentation and pitch.


Project Summary

Regional child welfare program specialists work closely with states and tribes to improve services to children and their families in the child welfare system.  One area that has become increasingly more critical to their work is using data to identify, explore, and better understand state performance in child welfare outcomes. This task requires easy access to intuitive and relevant data, knowledge and understanding of key outcomes and data sets, and analytic skills.

However, the way we typically present and report on data to child welfare staff is cumbersome and difficult to digest. For example, the most prominent data report for staff, the Children and Family Services Review Data Profile, is presented in a Word document consisting of 16 pages of text, 25 footnotes, and tables with almost 700 individual cells of data. Further, trainings offered to staff seeking to better understand the data tend to be provided in one or two-hour blocks of time via webinar format and are not recorded for later viewing.  Regional office staff overwhelmingly reported in our baseline survey that this training format is not conducive to increasing their understanding and use of data.

Our HHS Ignite project set out to test out a more intuitive way to present our data – a way that allows users to quickly see trends and areas needing improvement. Using an agile development approach and bi-weekly feedback from a Steering Committee composed of regional and central office staff, we used Tableau software to create a data tool that was intuitive, easy to use, and allowed staff the flexibility to drill down into the data and analyze performance by geographic dimensions and various child characteristics. Equipped with this information, staff can make more informed decision and recommendations. In fact, 100% of survey respondents said that this new data tool would be useful in their work. In addition, they indicated that the tool would make it easier to do their job, increase their productivity, and make it easier for them to make connections between data and child welfare practice. Many expressed eagerness to have the tool available for everyday use.

In the second part of our project, we created two short videos. The first video was an introduction to our project that provided basic information and context. The second video was a short, focused training video. The training video walks the user through the data tool functionality while building on a common scenario they face in their everyday work with state child welfare agencies. As a result, the video helps staff understand how to use the new tool itself, as well as how to better understand and use the data. Regional staff also reported that the video tutorial was easy to use, helped them better understand how to use the new tool, and was an effective training method.

The excitement from the staff about our pilot project has truly been remarkable. Not only did they say that this would drive them to integrate data into their everyday work, but they also really enjoyed working with the new tool. We received feedback through comments such as, “LOVE it!! It is VERY easy and intuitive”, “Slicing and dicing the data was delightful”, and “WAY COOL!!! A wonderful way to work with the data”. Staff told us that this tool is now essential to their work and they were already using it to prepare for meetings with states. Using these results and findings we are moving forward in exploring ways that we can scale-up our project and build on our success.

Team Photo

Team Members

Heather Swope (Project Lead), Administration for Children & Families (not shown)
Valeria Fajardo, Administration for Children & Families
Kurt Heisler, Administration for Children & Families
Melinda Baldwin, Administration for Children & Families
Paul Kirisitz, Administration for Children & Families

Project Lead’s Approving Supervisor:
Brett Brown, Social Science Research Analyst, Administration for Children, Youth & Families, Administration for Children & Families


HHS Ignite

HHS Ignite is the IDEA Lab’s incubator for Department staff with ideas on how to modernize government. Selected teams are introduced to startup methodologies for problem identification and project implementation. In the entrepreneurial spirit, Ignite projects are iterative, their impacts measurable, and their solutions scalable. This is one of 13 projects that participated in the beta year of Ignite which ran from June 2013 to February 2014.

Status Update: 3 Months Later

As part of Ignite’s approach to evaluating its effectiveness, each Ignite team is asked to provide information on their project status three months following their end-of-project pitch. When checking in with this ACF team, they indicated that they had received additional funding and dedicated time from their Agency to work on the next phase of their efforts.

From the project lead: “We view our project as a big success. Our test group was very excited about the products we produced and they were eager for us to make it available for use on an everyday basis. HHS Ignite provided the structure and support we needed to test our idea and generate momentum to move it forward. So we are excited about the current status of our work, and couldn’t have gotten to this point without the assistance provided by Ignite.”


Additional Information


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