Data elements currently in the AFCARS that could be deleted and any elements that should be added;States are concerned that any changes to AFCARS will be costly to implement in these difficult fiscal times. With this in mind, no deletions are recommended at this time.There are many areas for which data can be added or improved. Funding to support changes would be extremely important. With funding, additional new elements and changes to the system may provide a better data reporting system. The proposed AFCARS Advisory Group will be able to propose such changes, guide the final decisions, and assist in the development of definitions and implementation of changes. All existing AFCARS data elements must be re-examined for definitional relevance and consistency.Some new elements to consider include the following:Population Type – A new element or set of elements to distinguish population type (to identify child welfare, juvenile justice, and mental health and mr/dd populations) would improve AFCARS, as the populations served vary from state to state. This element would enhance the data set and provide better information for the outcome measures. The proposed AFCARS advisory group could assist in the development of clear definitions for the population types and offer suggestions for implementation.Multiple Birth Indicator – A new element to identify twins, triplets or other multiple births would indicate that multiple records with identical information are legitimate.
Sibling Group Indicator – A new element to identify sibling groups would assist in better describing the child welfare population and the characteristics/outcomes associated with sibling groups.
Discharge Reason for Previous Removal – Consider adding a new data element to AFCARS to provide the discharge reason (e.g. reunified, adopted, guardianship) if the child was already in care. This corresponds to Element #20, Discharge Date for Previous Removal. Although the information may be retained in the current Discharge Reason field, it will be overwritten when the child is discharge again.
Placement History – The current AFCARS submission includes only the details about the current or latest placement setting. A history of previous placements would be advantageous in showing the progress a child was making toward the case plan goal (e.g., going from the most to least restrictive placement), and for the development of future outcome measures. It would also show the types and duration of all placement settings, providing important links to outcomes. Furthermore, it would shed light on particular foster children, such as runaways, showing the types of settings they run from and how long they remain gone. This may prove to be challenging to implement and should be thoroughly examined and guided by the proposed AFCARS Advisory Group.
Missing Children – There needs to be a way to capture children for whom the existing placement settings do not apply. The way they should be reflected in AFCARS must be determined with consultation by the proposed AFCARS Advisory Group.
Adoption Disruption – There needs to be data that shows that an adoption has disrupted or dissolved, with clear definitions for the use of each term.
Some revisions to consider include the following:
Current Placement Setting – The current list of choices should be modified to be more descriptive about group, residential and institutional settings. More specific categories may include shelter, group home, residential treatment facility, independent living, hospital, juvenile detention center, juvenile facility, or other institution. These options need to be discussed and developed with the states, with the development of clear definitions for their use and mapping instructions.
Type of Disability – The current list of choices needs to be re-examined and changed with the input from the states and other stakeholders.
Discharge Reason – Expand the list to specify transfers to the juvenile justice agency or mental health agency. This would provide important information relevant to the link between juvenile justice, mental health and child welfare.
Was Child Previously Adopted? – Need better definition. Consider limiting it to adoption by the reporting state agency.
Adoptive Parents – The current choices to not include same sex parents and consideration should be given to changing the structure in a way that allows different parental configurations.
Marital status – Consider addition of the category ‘separated.’ Many couples are married but do not live together, and this has a profound impact on the child and case planning.
Most Recent Case Plan Goal – There needs to be a category called “Independent Living” as a case plan goal The use of the current category ’emancipation’ for youth receiving Independent Living services is inadequate. In most states, your who are approaching the age of majority cannot access Independent Living services unless they sign an agreement to remain a ward of the state. There needs to be a distinction between those who are emancipated from the system and those who elect to stay in the system and receive Independent Living services.