Capitol View on Kids: The Latest from Washington on Children and Families

New Bipartisan Data Technology Bill Introduced in House

On Tuesday, March 5, Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) introduced H.R. 948, legislation that would require greater coordination and standardization of data collection systems within the human service community including child welfare programs.  Reichert and Doggett are the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources.

They were joined in the introduction by Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), also a member of the subcommittee. In a press statement released under their names they stated:

“This legislation establishes consistent requirements for the electronic content and format of data used in the administration of all of the key human services programs under the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child care, child support enforcement, foster care and adoption, Supplemental Security Income, and unemployment insurance.”

The legislation builds on earlier work of the subcommittee that requires the relevant agency secretary or program administrator to establish consistent requirements for the electronic content and format of data used in the administration of certain human service programs.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on February 8, Sustained and Coordinated Efforts Could Facilitate Data Sharing While Protecting Privacy, analyzed the issue and stated, “better coordination between the various human service agencies can have positive results including making more informed decisions for families.

In terms of case management, officials from New York City and Allegheny County, Penn., said that data sharing helped caseworkers obtain client information more quickly and make more informed decisions. For instance, child welfare workers used client data from other agencies to quickly obtain background information on other household members when child maltreatment was reported or to locate potential caregivers when needed.”

The report also indicated that state and local agencies faced confusion over federal confidentiality requirements. The GAO found confusion or misperceptions around what agencies are allowed to share and a tendency on the part of agencies to be risk averse and overly cautious in their interpretation of federal privacy requirements.

There was consensus that federal agencies could clarify federal privacy requirements and should consider harmonizing requirements. Agencies surveyed also suggested that a  multi-agency guidance that clarifies what data sharing is permissible would be helpful.

Participants suggested that some additional tools that would help include developing model data sharing agreements, and informed consent language that complies with federal privacy requirements and provides relevant examples.

Also in this week’s edition of Capitol View on Kids:

One of the authors of the data-sharing bill, Rep. Dave Reichert, also dropped legislation to block the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families waivers that the Obama administration has offered states.

The House has passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through September; Senate appropriations leader Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) wants to try and pass actual spending bills.

John Sciamanna, who writes Capitol View on Kids, is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation. Complete copies of the newsletter Capitol View on Kids are available through membership in the National Foster Care Coalition (www.nationalfostercare.org ) or the National Child Abuse Coalition (www.nationalchildabuse.org ).

For more information on either coalition, email: john.sciamanna962@gmail.com

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