On August 11, HHS issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) on state child welfare information systems. Under the NPRM, HHS proposes to revise the regulations for the Statewide and Tribal Automated Child Welfare Information System—sometimes referred to as SACWIS. SACWIS, extended in 2012 to cover tribes, is the information system and technology that states use to collect annual data including AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System). It helps to manage child welfare systems as well as coordinate with child protection systems. In 1993 the federal government began providing funding to states to structure and implement their SACWIS systems if the state followed federal requirements. Between 1993 through 1997 the federal match was for 75 percent of the costs with the match later reduced to the 50 percent administrative level.

Over the years there has been criticism of the system and federal requirements as being overly rigid and not allowing the use of newer and better emerging software and computer technology. In some instances it has been argued that many agencies that provide child welfare services have had difficulty in interfacing with state systems and not allowed to use their data system and instead being forced to use the SACWIS system sometimes duplicating their work in serving children. The NPRM would remove the requirement for a single comprehensive system. Instead it allows for more flexibility and supports the use of improved technology to better support current child welfare practice.

It is believed that with the removal of the requirement for a single information system, title IV–E agencies will be able to implement systems that support current child welfare practice. The NPRM proposes to establish requirements around design, data quality, and data exchange standards in addition to aligning the regulations with current and emerging technology developments to support the administration of title IV–E and IV–B programs under the Social Security Act.

The NPRM, found in the Federal Register on Tuesday, August 11, 2015.  The proposed rule, when final and implemented, would apply to Tribal and State title IV-E agencies.  Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted at www.regulations.gov on or before October 13, 2015.