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Message ID: 9016
Date: 2011-11-10

Author:Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC)

Subject:RE: National Child Abuse and Neglect Registry

Thanks to all for the responses on this issue. I’ll cover a couple of perspectives on this issue—some policy related and some empirical in response to the responses, then I’ll shut up 1) I fear that many of these arguments about case records being pejorative come perilously close to arguing that “records in general are pejorative, “ or that “child welfare should not be able to look at someone’s past record” Surely, nobody really believes this. We do need to keep in mind that child abuse registry data is used primarily in one circumstance and one circumstance alone—if you have *another* child abuse report! And, even then, only by the child welfare system. This is really not like credit scores or criminal records or sex offender registries that are out there actively affecting people’s lives because they have broad uses and broad access. If you never have another child abuse report, and aren’t applying to be a foster/adoptive parent or day care worker, the impact on you is zero. 2) I think the far better argument made on this account is that the record may be incomplete and therefore misleading—i.e. that there may be a determination or court disposition that would be important for interpreting the report record, but that never makes it into the database. But IMO this point argues in favor of merging databases—in particular merging juvenile court with child welfare records—not against merging databases. Plus, as anyone who has worked in the field knows, parents can always be counted on to give you their side of the story (In my experience with parent-report, close to 100% of all their past child welfare allegations were largely false and malicious—not to necessarily impugn the honesty of CW clients here, its just human nature). 3) I know that the “oppression” lens is a popular one in social work, in some quarters even the dominant one. I read many of this school of objections as pointed at the child welfare system in general or even at society in general, and not really directly on-point to the question of database aggregation. I don’t want to get too far into the issue of disproportionality = oppression, except to briefly note that anyone interested in the research here should first Google the statistical term “Simpson’s Paradox” if you are unfamiliar with it before examining data. Given that oppression arguments are fundamentally a values question, not an empirical question, I’ll disclose a more personal and less scientific bias---I have no ideological problem whatsoever with the fact that child welfare is heavily populated with poor people. IMO its simply a fact, and one that needs little explaining. I have no interest and limited patience with attributing blameworthiness to the poor because of this, nor in pointing a crusader’s finger at the child welfare system and its staff as being class oppressors because of this. 4) I think the point about employment disadvantages is a good one, and one of the few that actually is a realistic issue for aggregation. Aggregation will increase sensitivity for these searches. However, I think the analogy to e-verify, etc. is not so strong. E-verify is used for all jobs and therefore has the potential to confer massive disadvantages. Child abuse registry searches are limited by law to only a handful of jobs, depending on the state law (e.g. day care worker, foster parent), and therefore might limit employment disadvantages to a tiny percentage of all jobs. Then there is the fact that if we asked parents in this country “should we have a policy that day care centers must check to see if their child care staff have a substantiated abuse report on their own children?” we might expect that about 90% of American parents using these centers are going to answer yes. And, don’t we at least want foster/adoptive parents to be checked out before we put children in their homes, including their reports in other jurisdictions? I would not suggest that a “hit” is an automatic disqualification, but shouldn’t we at least know? 5) Re: Maria Ramirez—with 143,000 hits in our hypothetical database. This is a real issue and an important one, and one that grows with the size of the database. But, given what information is in child welfare databases, it is not difficult to imagine a solution. When we ask about Maria Ramirez with dob 01/01/1884 who has a son Michael with dob 02/02/2006 and a daughter Lucy with dob 03/03/2008, then I think we might just be down to one hit. All without adding any new information or identifiers to what commonly exists in these databases. Plus, this is where probabilistic matching algorithms come into play, wherein each hit also returns a probability that this is the right person. 6) The question was raised about the necessity of an aggregated database if workers could simply make a few phone calls and get the same information. The answer is that the number of calls isn’t “a few.” Some databases are state level, some are county level. In order to check for a history of past child welfare involvement, a worker potentially might have to make a very large number of calls, keep track of who has called back and who hasn’t, follow-up etc. Not realistic. 7) My final point is this. Perhaps if we leave our speculations behind (my own included), we might frame this as an entirely different type of question—an empirical one for policy researchers. What a concept---actually testing and measuring things like downstream benefits, harms, and outcomes before making a scaled-up social policy decision. Let’s collect and analyze some data on the effects of merging databases and see where that leaves us on this question. MC Mark Chaffin, PhD Professor of Pediatrics University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center P.O. Box 26901 Oklahoma City, OK (405) 271-8858 mark-chaffin@ouhsc.edu This message (including attachments) may contain information that is privileged, confidential or protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that dissemination, disclosure, copying, distribution or use of this message or any information contained in it is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete this message from your computer. Although we have taken steps to ensure that this e-mail and attachments are free from any virus, we advise that in keeping with good computing practice the recipient should ensure they are actually virus free. Illegitimi non carborundum

Thanks to all for the responses on this issue. I’ll cover a couple of perspectives on this issue—some policy related and some empirical in response to the responses, then I’ll shut up 1) I fear that many of these arguments about case records being pejorative come perilously close to arguing that “records in general are pejorative, “ or that “child welfare should not be able to look at someone’s past record” Surely, nobody really believes this. We do need to keep in mind that child abuse registry data is used primarily in one circumstance and one circumstance alone—if you have *another* child abuse report! And, even then, only by the child welfare system. This is really not like credit scores or criminal records or sex offender registries that are out there actively affecting people’s lives because they have broad uses and broad access. If you never have another child abuse report, and aren’t applying to be a foster/adoptive parent or day care worker, the impact on you is zero. 2) I think the far better argument made on this account is that the record may be incomplete and therefore misleading—i.e. that there may be a determination or court disposition that would be important for interpreting the report record, but that never makes it into the database. But IMO this point argues in favor of merging databases—in particular merging juvenile court with child welfare records—not against merging databases. Plus, as anyone who has worked in the field knows, parents can always be counted on to give you their side of the story (In my experience with parent-report, close to 100% of all their past child welfare allegations were largely false and malicious—not to necessarily impugn the honesty of CW clients here, its just human nature). 3) I know that the “oppression” lens is a popular one in social work, in some quarters even the dominant one. I read many of this school of objections as pointed at the child welfare system in general or even at society in general, and not really directly on-point to the question of database aggregation. I don’t want to get too far into the issue of disproportionality = oppression, except to briefly note that anyone interested in the research here should first Google the statistical term “Simpson’s Paradox” if you are unfamiliar with it before examining data. Given that oppression arguments are fundamentally a values question, not an empirical question, I’ll disclose a more personal and less scientific bias---I have no ideological problem whatsoever with the fact that child welfare is heavily populated with poor people. IMO its simply a fact, and one that needs little explaining. I have no interest and limited patience with attributing blameworthiness to the poor because of this, nor in pointing a crusader’s finger at the child welfare system and its staff as being class oppressors because of this. 4) I think the point about employment disadvantages is a good one, and one of the few that actually is a realistic issue for aggregation. Aggregation will increase sensitivity for these searches. However, I think the analogy to e-verify, etc. is not so strong. E-verify is used for all jobs and therefore has the potential to confer massive disadvantages. Child abuse registry searches are limited by law to only a handful of jobs, depending on the state law (e.g. day care worker, foster parent), and therefore might limit employment disadvantages to a tiny percentage of all jobs. Then there is the fact that if we asked parents in this country “should we have a policy that day care centers must check to see if their child care staff have a substantiated abuse report on their own children?” we might expect that about 90% of American parents using these centers are going to answer yes. And, don’t we at least want foster/adoptive parents to be checked out before we put children in their homes, including their reports in other jurisdictions? I would not suggest that a “hit” is an automatic disqualification, but shouldn’t we at least know? 5) Re: Maria Ramirez—with 143,000 hits in our hypothetical database. This is a real issue and an important one, and one that grows with the size of the database. But, given what information is in child welfare databases, it is not difficult to imagine a solution. When we ask about Maria Ramirez with dob 01/01/1884 who has a son Michael with dob 02/02/2006 and a daughter Lucy with dob 03/03/2008, then I think we might just be down to one hit. All without adding any new information or identifiers to what commonly exists in these databases. Plus, this is where probabilistic matching algorithms come into play, wherein each hit also returns a probability that this is the right person. 6) The question was raised about the necessity of an aggregated database if workers could simply make a few phone calls and get the same information. The answer is that the number of calls isn’t “a few.” Some databases are state level, some are county level. In order to check for a history of past child welfare involvement, a worker potentially might have to make a very large number of calls, keep track of who has called back and who hasn’t, follow-up etc. Not realistic. 7) My final point is this. Perhaps if we leave our speculations behind (my own included), we might frame this as an entirely different type of question—an empirical one for policy researchers. What a concept---actually testing and measuring things like downstream benefits, harms, and outcomes before making a scaled-up social policy decision. Let’s collect and analyze some data on the effects of merging databases and see where that leaves us on this question. MC Mark Chaffin, PhD Professor of Pediatrics University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center P.O. Box 26901 Oklahoma City, OK (405) 271-8858 mark-chaffinouhsc.edu This message (including attachments) may contain information that is privileged, confidential or protected from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that dissemination, disclosure, copying, distribution or use of this message or any information contained in it is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete this message from your computer. Although we have taken steps to ensure that this e-mail and attachments are free from any virus, we advise that in keeping with good computing practice the recipient should ensure they are actually virus free. Illegitimi non carborundum