Using local data can help programs monitor performance, evaluate programming, engage diverse community stakeholders, make decisions about scarce resources and develop comprehensive responses to family needs.

This page provides an overview of programs that are using data to improve outcomes, as well as a range of resources that programs can use to inform their work.

How communities are using data

The following examples illustrate how some communities are using community-level data to inform their work:

  • For every county in California, Children Now produces a comprehensive scorecard of children’s well-being that tracks 29 indicators over time and by race and ethnicity.
  • In King County, Washington, the public-private partnership Communities Count provides reliable and up-to-date data to inform funding and policy decisions aimed at improving the quality of life for residents in the greater Seattle area.
  • In Dane County, Wisconsin, Healthy Dane uses data from hospitals, public health and other partners in the greater Madison region to assess the health status of its residents, identify health disparities and track progress toward addressing health issues facing the community.

Incorporating child welfare data

Several jurisdictions are examining child welfare data at the community-level as well. Programs that raise up and critically examine the geographic distribution of child welfare indicators (e.g., abuse and neglect rates, out-of-home placements) can use the data to foster engagement with community stakeholders, inform decision-making and direct comprehensive intervention responses.

The following examples illustrate how some communities are making child welfare data publicly available at an appropriate geographic level — that is, at a level that provides utility for decision-makers while maintaining the security of information about children and families involved with the child welfare system.

  • The California Child Welfare Indicators Project at the University of California, Berkeley, examines maltreatment allegation rates and foster care entry rates by county and uses geographic information systems (GIS) software to map the rates of occurrence for various levels of child welfare system contact.
  • Partners for Our Children uses its child well-being data portal to promote access to and understanding of child welfare data, including investigations and out-of-home entries by age group, race/ethnicity and allegation type. These data can be viewed by county for the state of Washington.
  • The annual health profiles compiled by the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District in Bexar County, Texas, report the rates of confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect by ZIP code across the county.
  • In Missouri and Illinois, Vision for Children at Risk maps rates of indicated child abuse and neglect reports and rates of children at risk for abuse and neglect, as well as numerous other indicators, across ZIP codes. The program is intended to mobilize the St. Louis region to act on the needs of children.
  • The New Jersey Child Welfare Data Map hosted by the Rutgers University School of Social Work displays trends in child welfare data alongside socioeconomic data and service data for substance abuse, domestic violence and home visiting across New Jersey counties.
  • In Texas, the TexProtects ZipRisk Project uses substantiated child maltreatment, child abuse and neglect related fatalities, teen birth, substance abuse and child poverty rates to develop a comprehensive child abuse and neglect risk assessment and ranking for all Zip codes in the state.
  • The Pay for Prevention project, hosted by the Center for Evidence-based Policy at the Oregon Health & Science University, uses geographic analysis to target support toward communities experiencing elevated risk of children being maltreated and entering foster care.

Indicator project consortia

Several consortia are bringing together and cataloging local efforts to use community indicators for strategic planning, decision-making and community-building efforts. Below are two examples of comprehensive consortia that compile resources, catalog efforts and provide technical assistance to community indicator projects.

  • The Community Indicators Consortium is an inventory of indicator projects that seeks to support the development, availability and effective use of community indicators to leverage positive community change.
  • The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership is a collaboration between the Urban Institute and local partners to democratize data and use neighborhood information systems for policymaking and community-building.

Frameworks for community health and well-being

Many frameworks have been developed to reflect community health and well-being. These frameworks help track community needs, progress and strengths. They can be adapted by — or serve as models for — communities seeking to develop a comprehensive approach to community investment.

Commonly used frameworks include:

  • County Health Rankings & Roadmaps from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
  • Healthy Communities Assessment Tool from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. This page provides an example of the Minneapolis pilot site.
  • Healthy People 2020 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
  • Kids Count from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  • Measure of America from the Social Science Research Council.

Learn more

Explore the following resources:

  • Geographic analysis: Data sources and indexes, a selection of available data resources and composite measures of community well-being.
  • Using community data to improve outcomes, information about the role of community data on child safety and family well-being.
  • Community Opportunity Map, an interactive tool that highlights the aspects of communities that are associated with safe children and strong families. This interactive, research-based framework is composed of select U.S. Census Bureau indicators and is available for any community in the nation to use.