CFSR Statewide Data Indicators FAQs
Updated for CFSR Round 4!
See responses to questions that range from the general use of Child and Family Services Review (CFSR) statewide data indicators to the technical details of running related syntax files and understanding the results. The Children’s Bureau (CB) and Capacity Building Center for States will add new questions and update responses, as needed.
Last Updated: October 2022
CFSR statewide data indicators provide indicators of performance for a state to assess, monitor, and broaden its understanding of safety and permanency for children served by state child welfare systems.
In CFSR Round 4, the determination of substantial conformity with Safety Outcome 1 and Permanency Outcome 1 will be informed by the state’s Risk-Standardized Performance on the statewide data indicators in comparison to national performance and case practice ratings obtained through onsite case reviews.
CB expects state child welfare agencies and their partners to use the statewide data indicator performance information to:
- Help assess program improvement and systems change throughout the CFSR and Program Improvement Plan (PIP) implementation and monitoring periods
- Develop, implement, and assess progress on goals and objectives included in state Child and Family Service Plans (CFSPs) and Annual Progress and Services Reports (APSRs)
- Inform and guide ongoing continuous quality improvement (CQI) activities to improve child and family outcomes, including areas to target further exploration using state and judicial administrative data systems
CB staff use the data to assess state strengths and improvement needs and to inform discussions with states regarding strategic planning, program improvement, and systems change. CB also uses the information to identify and offer states technical support through the program improvement and title IV-B joint planning and monitoring process, and services provided by the Child Welfare Capacity Building Collaborative.
The seven statewide data indicators and associated CFSR outcomes are identified below. Clicking on the link for each statewide data indicator will lead to a two-page factsheet that provides information on each one, including the measure, how it is calculated, and data elements used in the calculations.
Safety Outcome 1: Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect.
Permanency Outcome 1: Children have permanency and stability in their living situation.
- Permanency in 12 Months for Children Entering Foster Care
- Permanency in 12 Months for Children in Care 12 to 23 Months
- Permanency in 12 Months for Children in Care 24 Months or More
- Reentry to Foster Care
- Placement Stability
You can locate more information on the Capacity Building Center for States’ Statewide Data Indicators webpage and CB’s CFSR webpage. Information on the numerator and denominator for each measure can also be found in the CFSR Round 4 Statewide Data Indicators Data Dictionary.
States can use CFSR statewide data indicator results in their CQI process to help proactively identify problems and affected target populations, explore contributing factors and causes, determine where to focus strategies and interventions to address the identified problems, and monitor performance improvement over time.
States can use the statewide data indicator syntax (or underlying logic associated with the code) to replicate data quality checks and to calculate observed performance on their own using state child welfare agency administrative data. Find instructions and tips for running the syntax on the Center for States’ CFSR Statewide Data Indicators webpage.
The Center for States’ Continuous Quality Improvement and Implementation webpage contains several tools to support states with CQI processes. The Center for States is available to support state CQI system improvement efforts. Contact your state’s Tailored Services Liaison for more information.
States receive the CFSR Data Profile approximately every 6 months (February and August) and therefore do not need to use the SPSS syntax to calculate performance and obtain these results. However, if states would like to estimate the observed performance for time periods that are not included in the CFSR Data Profile, then they are encouraged to do so using the SPSS syntax or alternative methods.
Note that results may vary or may not be accurate if calculating observed performance for data periods different from those included in the CFSR Data Profile.
Yes, in addition to the statewide data indicators and associated CFSR Data Profile and supplemental context data, states may have or want to use their own administrative or other data to develop measures that address the need to monitor performance, and to provide additional information that is not addressed by the statewide data indicators. The use of data, regardless of which data are used, should be guided by the questions you seek to answer. Knowing the question you want to answer will help determine which measures and data sets to use. Exploratory review of any available data is encouraged.
It is important to understand the experiences of the children and youth behind these numbers, and to understand the experiences of various groups of children and youth based on where we typically observe variation (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, geography, the most prevalent reasons they entered care, the permanency goals). All factors collectively can contribute to a state’s performance on an individual measure. In many cases additional information that states may have access to in their information systems may contribute to a broader understanding of how children experience their time in foster care, including the ratio of caseworkers to caseloads, locality resources, the working relationships between the child welfare agency and the judicial and legal community, and number of available foster homes. The interrelationship of these factors can also influence a state’s performance on the measures.
Currently, the CFSR Data Profile supplemental context data displays observed performance on each measure, disaggregated by localities, race/ethnicity, and various age groups. This view provides a first step in developing a basis for understanding your state’s performance. Case record review results are a good resource to help understand the experiences of children served by the state child welfare system.
The Center for States is available to support these conversations, as well as the technical aspects of calculating performance for subpopulations and creating visualizations for stakeholders.
Contact your state’s Tailored Services Liaison for more information.
States should engage in a CQI process that is linked to performance on the measures. CQI is a complex, systematic process of identifying, describing, and analyzing strengths and problems; and then testing, learning from, and revising solutions.1 Defining the problem is an important first step toward identifying and addressing performance improvement needs. An example definition of a problem using statewide data indicator performance could read: “Our state’s observed percentage of those achieving permanency in 12 months for children entering foster care is statistically lower than national performance, as indicated by our risk-standardized performance (RSP) on this measure.”
In addition to clearly defining the problem, an understanding of contributing factors is a key component of addressing the problem and should be part of specific questions developed in a cyclical CQI process that requires the deliberate use of evidence. Discipline and sound measurement, as well as the involvement of a wide range of staff and stakeholders, are needed to convert data into evidence and identify strategies for improvement.
For additional resources related to CQI, see the Center for States Continuous Quality Improvement and Implementation webpage, which includes publications, learning experiences, and opportunities for peer sharing.
1 Wulczyn, F., Alpert, L., Orlebeke, B., & Haight, J. (2014). Principles, language, and shared meaning: Toward a common understanding of CQI in child welfare. Chicago, IL: The Center for State Child Welfare Data.
CB provides an array of available data containing information that may help identify potential contributing factors affecting performance on a measure, or that may indicate where to target additional data analysis. For example, the CFSR Data Profile supplemental context data includes the observed performance broken down by localities, race/ethnicity, and various age groups, which augment the CFSR statewide data indicator results and can assist states with identifying contributing factors of a defined problem.
For more information on problem exploration, see the Center for States’ Change and Implementation in Practice Series. The Center for States is available to support problem exploration efforts. Contact your state’s assigned Tailored Services Liaison for more information.
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