The Case for Data-Sharing: San Francisco’s Shared Youth Database

Jack Calhoun, the author of this profile, is a senior consultant to NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families and to the U.S. Department of Justice for its National Forum to Prevent Youth Violence.

Introduction

The absence of effective data-sharing protocols creates enormous obstacles to timely and effective services that have the potential to improve outcomes for children and families. At the local level, it hobbles those who work with young people and unnecessarily burdens already burdened parents.

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In Getting Big Data to the Good Guys, Stephen Goldsmith and Christopher Kingsley paint a stark picture of the everyday reality for many educators, social workers, probation officers and others who work with the most vulnerable, asserting that they "...are working in a digital dark age. [For example], with few exceptions:

  • Street outreach workers helping a child find emergency shelter cannot determine whether he or she receives psychiatric care or suffers from physical health conditions;
  • Juvenile courts cannot access students' academic records, even to verify school attendance and inform judgments; and
  • Planning directors cannot track clients' use of services across systems either to coordinate care or to understand the factors and sequence of events that shape a youth's involvement in public systems."

The result is often less effective - or sometimes even counterproductive - interventions for the children and youth who most need our help.

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Sharing Data for Better Results
Sharing Data for Better Results