Last night, PBS’ NewsHour aired a segment investigating strategies in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County to better identify children at highest risk of abuse and neglect and to improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care.
PBS’ coverage paid particular attention to the use of predictive analytics to help determine which children are at highest risk for subsequent abuse. The idea of using sophisticated algorithms to mine “big data” sets to determine child maltreatment risk has gained traction in child welfare administrations from New Zealand to Los Angeles.
Under the leadership of Human Services Director Mark Cherna, Allegheny County is investigating in earnest how it might integrate predictive analytics into its child protection system. However, advocates and others are concerned that using big data in this way is nothing short of profiling.
Cherna has made significant headway in gaining the trust of community members and improving the lives of vulnerable families under his jurisdiction, PBS reported.
“I’ve been doing this work for over 40 years and if there was a magic bullet we wouldn’t be talking about it today,” Cherna said in the PBS story. “This is very complex work. There is no easy solution.”