Child and Family Databank

Imagine if we could predict and prevent problems such as homelessness, child abuse, and drug use. New Mexico Appleseed’s work is laying the foundation to do just that. Not only will we better understand what risks correlate with what problems, we will be able to make sure that the services at-risk children and families receive to solve those problems actually work.

New Mexico Appleseed is spearheading legislation to establish the CHILD system, which will be a statewide integrated data system of longitudinal, record-level, anonymized data. The CHILD system provides for the ethical and privacy-protected use of data that will allow state agencies, the legislature and researchers to better describe and address the complex web of issues families face and a program evaluation tool to ensure public dollars are spent effectively.

This bill creates the legislative framework to enable the legislature, government agencies, social services providers and researchers to use data to improve outcomes and save state and federal dollars.  The Databank and the governing Commission will use cross-agency data to:

  • Identify risk and protective factors to help predict and prevent problems;
  • Target evidence-based programs and interventions to high risk groups;
  • Evaluate programs, policies, and interventions for efficacy and cost;
  • Improve outcomes from case management; and
  • Protect individual privacy and avoid ethical concerns.

Problem #1:  Poor Outcomes for Multi-System Children and Families: Generations of New Mexican families live in chaos. They bounce from one living situation – and school – to the next, cycling in and out of multiple social service systems.  Multi-system families may be involved with child protective services and foster care, corrections and juvenile justice, behavioral health systems, and be inadequately housed. Risk factors for many of these issues are correlated and often causal.   These problems do not exist in a vacuum, but are treated as such.

Problem #2: Multi-System Children and Families are the Most Expensive: Appleseed estimates that each year in New Mexico 16,000 families cost the taxpayers $900 million, yet see few positive outcomes from the investment.  These families use expensive triage services such as the police, incarceration, emergency departments and foster care.  Research predicts that they and the generations that follow are also the most likely to repeat the cycle of poverty.  The Child and Family Databank Act will result in better and more cost-effective outcomes for New Mexico’s most vulnerable families. It is a critical tool that will enable the legislature to hold agencies accountable for results and allow state agencies to target their services and ensure those services are effective.   The Child and Family Databank is the first step to make New Mexico a leader in evidence- based policymaking.

Solution: Integrated and De-Identified Data and Analytics: The proposed legislation:

  • Mandates data sharing from CYFD, HSD, DOH, PED and criminal justice agencies;
  • Establishes an appointed commission to create and oversee the governance infrastructure and develop privacy and ethical safeguards to protect data;
  • Designates a staff structure that will help ensure the data and intelligence is used by agencies;
  • Creates the opportunity for the Databank to recoup costs by charging researchers for data access and use;
  • Requires that results from data analytics research be published;