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Ohio Launches Platform to Match Foster Children with Families

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Ohio has launched a statewide platform to help social workers connect the state’s 3,100 foster youth with permanent families. Children’s services and the foster care system can be difficult for social workers to navigate, often forcing them to track down and engage with a child’s extended family members on their own. Through a partnership with Connect Our Kids, social workers can access the company’s People Search and Family Connections tools to map out family trees and find contact information for potential caregivers.

People Search is a free search engine that leverages data from over 300 public domain sources and from PIPL, an identity information provider that Connect Our Kids partners with. With People Search, social workers, family recruiters and court-appointed special advocates can more easily locate and contact the extended families or guardians of foster children.

Users can search by name, address, email and phone number to find potential caregivers. The company’s customised front-end to PIPL’s algorithm makes the tool intuitive for social workers Connect Our Kids CEO Jennifer Jacobs said.

The Family Connections tool uses information from People Search to create genograms, or diagrams of a person’s family relationships to help social workers build a full family tree. Jacobs, a former military official who previously worked at Sandia National Laboratories and as a tech consultant, said the idea was inspired by the software used by federal agencies to build out networks of terrorist organisations.

Using this technology is data sharing at its best to help find forever homes for kids in foster care. It’s going to save children’s services professionals time and resources.

– Jon Husted, Ohio Lt. Governor 

Manually keeping track of children and families – on paper or in Excel spreadsheets – is inefficient and in need of an overhaul. There is a lot of work in child welfare that has to be done by humans, but finding, importing and organising data is better handled by technology. The colour-coded family tree can quickly show which family members are available to provide immediate, short-term or long-term help, and who is not – streamlining work processes for social workers.

Additionally, users can add any new information they find, like details on relatives, into a search box as the tool’s algorithm tries to match the information to its People Search records. If there is a match, all the new information can be easily imported into the database. Those building the tree will also have access to a built-in log function that tracks social workers’ activity.

Ohio has been creating online platforms for various purposes, including Sentencing Data Platform. As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission is working with the University of Cincinnati to build the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform (OSDP). The OSDP is designed to help judges implement the Uniform Sentencing Entry and Method of Conviction entries and empower courts with accessible and reliable information. The OSDP will achieve goals that include: using data to inform decision-making; improving transparency; and, making data accessible for the public, practitioners, and research.

The collection of sentencing data in a comprehensive and searchable database will inform decision-making and give judges the tools and information needed to impose sentences in accordance with the purposes and principles of felony sentencing.

Courts, Counties, and policymakers statewide can use this data to make sensible, cost-effective decisions, promote smart, effective use of resources, and ensure measured proportional responses. Further, reliance on data creates an opportunity to monitor and evaluate the results of those changes, determine if the desired effects are achieved and assess unintended consequences.

The data-driven OSDP project is designed to “tell the story” of sentencing in Ohio by providing understanding and analysis of the criminal justice system by providing statewide, reliable and accessible information on sentencing outcomes.

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