Centre for Social Data Analytics to develop a Decision Aid Tool for Children, Youth and Families

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Lamont McClure and the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Division announce an agreement between the County of Northampton and the Centre for Social Data Analytics (AUT Ventures) to develop a Decision Aid Tool that uses predictive analytics to aid in the screening of child abuse and neglect referrals. The Decision Aid Tool is a call screening tool which rapidly integrates and analyzes hundreds of data elements for each person involved in an allegation of child maltreatment. The result is a score which predicts the long-term likelihood of future involvement by child welfare. The Decision Aid Tool will assist supervisors who will continue to use their professional judgement when deciding which referrals should be investigated. Ideally, it will prevent families from being subjected to unnecessary investigation and allow caseworkers to focus on those families who really need help. The Centre of Social Data Analytics led the international research team which developed a similar screening tool for Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services in 2016. The Centre for Social Data Analytics is a research center at Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.

“By utilizing the Decision Aid Tool, we are looking to more accurately identify the folks who need our assistance and reduce the trauma for families who don’t require CYF services,” says DHS Director Susan Wandalowski. “We believe a data driven approach which assists to reduce bias, will help us better utilize our resources.”

The Decision Aid Tool will be built specifically for Northampton County using the County’s data with hundreds of features that reflect previous child welfare involvement for the household.

The development of the tool and its implementation will be a multi-year process. The Centre for Social Data Analytics should deliver a Decision Aid Tool prototype within one year and, over the next two years, will validate it as well as training intake workers and supervisors. The Department of Human Services will hold at least two meetings with community groups before the Decision Aid Tool is put into use.

“As always, our primary goal is to ensure child safety,” says Lamont McClure. “CYF handles an average of 8,000 calls on its child abuse hotline every year. We anticipate the Decision Aid Tool will help us direct our resources to where they are needed most.”

If you suspect an incidence of child abuse or neglect, please report it to Northampton County CYF at 610-252-9060 or call the Child Line at 1-800-932-0313.

Information provided to TVL by:
Becky Bartlett
Deputy Director of Administration
Northampton County Government Center
669 Washington Street
Easton, PA 18042