Children and families live within the context of their surrounding communities. Child welfare data should be viewed in the context of the broader geographic landscape.

The arrival of new digital platforms and tools is changing the way we collect, analyze and share information. Similarly, the widespread use of mobile devices and more user-friendly applications is bringing the power of technology into everyday use. As a result, people and organizations are experiencing a dramatic shift in their ability to use data to shape their work.

While discussions of “big data” are frequently associated with high-tech fields, the social sector — including the child welfare field — has much to gain from our ability to work with diverse sources of information. Just as companies and organizations are capturing, analyzing and sharing data in new ways, social service groups can use these approaches to inform and strengthen their work.

Data collection and analysis can help social sector agencies identify meaningful trends across populations. They can also help programs hone in on narrowly defined geographic areas — such as counties, cities and even neighborhoods — to more clearly understand the unique challenges and resources in each community.

Because children and families live within the context of their surrounding communities, it is important to view child welfare data in the context of the broader geographic landscape. For example, children who experience violence in their homes are more likely to witness violence in their communities as well.

Casey Family Programs and other organizations across the country are using community-level data to inform their decision-making and resource allocation. Community indicator projects developed by these organizations use data that capture a range of perspectives — including demographics, health, education, the economy, the environment, employment, housing, public safety and transportation — to help jurisdictions focus their efforts and, ultimately, improve outcomes.

Learn more

Explore Geographic analysis: Applications and frameworks to learn how some programs and foundations are using community-level data.

Explore Geographic analysis: Data sources and indexes to access a selection of available data resources and composite measures of community well-being.