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CYFD needs new approach

RE: “Abuse tracking system a ‘dinosaur,’ legislators told” (July 18)

We reacted with a knowing nod, mixed with deep frustration, reading about the dinosaur child abuse tracking system of CYFD. We are intimately aware of the system’s shortcomings, having worked in the CYFD Research, Assessment and Data Bureau – the unit for analyzing the data that was meant to inform all field work and central office. Not only was the data system referred to by staff as “held together by duct tape and Band-Aids,” but it is a deeply flawed system that could at any moment crash and lose vital information impacting our state’s most vulnerable children and families.

We want to stress to lawmakers who always seem to be asked to fund yet another system or upgrade, to put a hold on that request. It’s not that a new system is not urgently needed – it is and needed yesterday – but this data system is part of a much larger and more systemic problem – CYFD is not run in a data-driven manner.

While very good-hearted employees work earnestly to make sure kids are safe, the culture of CYFD is one of reaction and in many cases, making decisions based on hunches, opinions and politics. It is not a system that is capable of data-driven decision-making in a real way.

In order to address both the software and decision-making challenges, we advocate for a very different type of child welfare system – one we called in our book “Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment, Child Welfare-version 2.0.”

Child Welfare 2.0 is a new way of thinking about how the challenging work of child protective services can be done in a data-driven, technology-infused work environment – a place where collaboration meets data analysis with a focus on prevention. We believe it’s time for a radically new version of Child Welfare in New Mexico.

Again, as former employees, we wish to stress how much we respect our former coworkers and bosses for doing one of the hardest jobs in the world – and we wish to strengthen their work with a state-of-the-art data system, technology and empowerment – working in partnership with lawmakers on every level and a public deeply interested in problem solving so every child is healthy and every family is supported to succeed.

The dinosaur data system is on the verge of extinction. It is time for an upgrade. Our kids cannot wait.

Katherine Ortega Courtney and Dominic Cappello are advocates for data-driven and collaborative solutions in government and the co-authors of “Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment.” Ortega Courtney works for the Santa Fe Community Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit organization, and Cappello works for Safety and Success, a nonprofit advocacy organization.