At ACF, the quality assurance process begins at the inception of the information development process. Further, ACF reviews the quality (including the objectivity, utility, and integrity) of information before it is disseminated and treats information quality as integral to every step of the development of information, including its creation, collection, maintenance and dissemination.
The review procedures may vary among programs depending upon the requirements of the program and the type of information to be disseminated:
- Statistical Information: Statistical information pertaining to several programs disseminated by ACF is gathered from State agencies or local grantees. To assure the quality, integrity and consistency of this information, ACF staff review and analyze the data, subject the data to electronic validation procedures such as logic and edit checks, and contact the State or grantee to seek clarification in case discrepancies arise. States are provided opportunities to review and revise their information prior to publication in a federally published document or their placement on the web site. For example, TANF data collection is subject to edit and consistency checks and additional statistical analyses through a series of frequency distributions and cross tabulations to ensure the quality of data. The TANF program shares compiled information (e.g., work participation rates and High Performance Bonus data) with the States before publication to ensure accuracy.
- Surveys: Surveys sponsored by ACF are conducted using methodologies that are consistent with generally accepted professional standards for all aspects of survey development, including sample frame development, statistical design of the survey sample, questionnaire design and testing, data collection, sampling and coverage errors, nonresponse analysis, imputation of missing data, weights and variance estimates. ACF surveys follow guidelines and policies set forth in the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and other regulations related to the conduct of government surveys. ACF is committed to demonstrating in its PRA clearance packages that each draft information collection will result in information that will be collected, maintained, and used in a way that is consistent with OMB, HHS and ACF information quality guidelines. For example, ACF currently is funding a major multi-year longitudinal survey — the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) — designed and implemented by a reputable national research organization. This project consults with a technical advisory group composed of state officials, members of the academic community, child welfare professionals and practitioners, and federal experts in the implementation of this study. Major research and evaluation studies sponsored by the agency usually rely upon technical advisory groups or federal experts or both for project guidance.
- Analytic Reports and Policy Studies: Reports submitted by grantees and contractors for projects funded by ACF are subject to internal reviews by several agency officials for quality, objectivity, and accuracy. Federal experts from within and outside of the Department often monitor interim and final reports of projects with crosscutting implications.
Information contained in analytical reports and policy studies is based on estimates derived from reliable administrative data and external data sources. All data sources are identified. All analytic reports and policy studies are reviewed by technically qualified staff to ensure valid, complete, unbiased, objective and relevant analysis. Analytic reports and policy studies considered to be more technically complex are also reviewed by subject matter experts outside of the originating organizational component to provide additional perspective and expertise.
- Policy documents are cleared through ACF and Departmental clearance procedures, including review by the Office of the General Counsel (to assure proper legal interpretation), as well as review by numerous other knowledgeable officials. In some cases, a technical advisory group convened for a specific project may review and comment on a report prior to its release. For example, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has developed intra-Departmental procedures for assuring the quality of disseminated information. The Office of the General Counsel, key OFA staff, and other offices review significant policy documents, where appropriate, and the documents are cleared by the Office Director before issuance. All ACF regulations and reports to Congress are subject to review and clearance under both ACF and Office of the Secretary's clearance processes in addition to other reviews.
Policy for Correcting Errors:
If an error is detected in the agency's reports and publications before mailing, it is corrected. If these materials have already been mailed, ACF issues a special notification to the recipients or includes an errata sheet with the subsequent publications. Errors in materials in the agency's web site are corrected online.