Children's Voice July/August 2007

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Executive Directions
Management Matters
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Child Welfare's Alphabet Soup: A Beginner's Guide to SACWIS, AFCARS, and NCANDS

Just what do all those acronyms stand for? Here's a brief overview of SACWIS, AFCARS, and NCANDS, some of the most commonly used child welfare data terms.

States receive assistance from the federal government to develop and maintain the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). The federal government made this funding available for states to meet federal data reporting requirements. A SACWIS is a comprehensive, automated tool that supports social workers' foster care and adoption assistance case management practice.

Most states have added other functionality to their SACWIS to support child protective and family preservation services, thereby providing a unified automated tool to support most, if not all, child welfare services. States can also integrate other data management programs into SACWIS, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, emergency assistance, juvenile justice, and child care.

As a condition of federal funding, all states must provide the federal government data under the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS). The required dataset includes case-level data on all children in out-of-home care who are under placement, care, or supervision of the state child welfare agency, as well as information for all children adopted with state child welfare involvement. States must submit AFCARS data twice annually to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) is a national data collection and analysis system authorized by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Though voluntary, almost all states and the District of Columbia participate. NCANDS has two parts: a compilation of all child abuse and neglect statistics from each reporting state, including data on all child protection reports, investigations, victims, and perpetrators; and case-level information from those child protective service agencies currently able to provide electronic child abuse and neglect records. NCANDS data are reported annually.

View more information on all three.

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