Since 1997, researchers with the Creating Indicators Project have been tracking the experiences of all North Carolina families who receive services from county departments of social services. This project is a massive undertaking given all the data streams, and thus, requires sophisticated, advanced analytics. By extracting information from State electronic databases related to the administration of child welfare programs, the Creating Indicators Project staff have been collecting and analyzing data with the aim of creating a better understanding of child welfare program processes and outcomes. Based on their analyses of these data, the Creating Indicators staff have developed reports on the factors affecting the length of time households receive Food Stamps and benefits through Work First, which is North Carolina’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. For example, project reports have examined whether TANF recipients are able to find and maintain employment, the types of jobs they secure, and the amount they earn.
The project staff also explore whether children in Work First families are more likely than other children to have contact with the child welfare system. Using data from the State’s child welfare system, the Creating Indicators research team has explored questions such as the likelihood of a child entering foster care (i.e., being removed from his or her family home) following a report of maltreatment, the length of time children remain foster care, the number and type of placements these children experience while in foster care, and whether children who leave foster care (e.g., those re-unified with their families) have subsequent child maltreatment reports and re-enter care. In addition, the Creating Indicators staff is exploring the experiences and outcomes of children who “age out” of foster care when they turn 18 years old. To help counties assess their performance in multiple areas of child welfare, the Creating Indicators Program developed a website. The Creating Indicators data resource is used by State administrators and practitioners in making program decisions.