Mecklenburg County Linked Database. Implementation Issues


Mecklenburg County’s partnership with the Jordan Institute for Families at the UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work facilitated the data collection process.  The Jordan Institute has been working with extracts from state administrative systems for nearly a decade under contracts with the state to evaluate social services programs.  Examples of these contracts are the Evaluation of North Carolina Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program (the predecessor of Work First Employment Services), Management Assistance for the Work First Program, and Evaluation of Family to Family: Reconstructing Family Foster Care.  State data was used to create longitudinal files for all of these projects, demonstrating that the Jordan Institute and the state of North Carolina have an established history of sharing information as early as 1990.

In this contract with the state Division of Social Services, a confidentiality agreement states that the Jordan Institute is bound to protect the confidentiality of any and all data to which they receive access.  The Jordan Institute was permitted to provide Mecklenburg County extracts of the data through an informal agreement with the contract manager at the Division.  Therefore, a foundation for sharing Work First data, Food Stamps data, and Employment Security Commission Earnings data had already been laid at the time the grant phase began.  Mecklenburg County had no direct relationship with the state on matters of data sharing.

Attempts were made to collect data on subsidized childcare, child support collections, and Medicaid.  Unfortunately, these data are currently unavailable to us.  Mecklenburg County has a partial extract of subsidized childcare data.  However, the data is only available for six months, and has not yielded any meaningful analyses.  The reason for the delay in obtaining the data in full is that Mecklenburg County’s direct partners at the Jordan Institute do no extract the childcare data themselves.  Another party at the Jordan Institute has been extracting the data for separate purchase of care research.  Because the data is being extracted for purposes other than research for Mecklenburg County, we have only been able to obtain a sample of purchase of care data.  Once the party has completed constructing, cleaning, and working with the database, it will be given to our partners, who, in turn, will give it to us.  A more complete childcare database is being constructed, and should be available next month.

Data from child support collections also remains unavailable to us, largely due to confidentiality concerns.  However, there is interest at the state level in obtaining this data.  We believe that eventually Child Support Enforcement will be persuaded by state officials to share the requested data.

Medicaid information is also currently unavailable.  We originally believed that this information would be included in the TANF case file.  However, there is no indicator as to which families receive Medicaid once they leave the Work First program.  The Jordan Institute now has data from the state Medicaid system and is working to create a longitudinal Medicaid database.  This information should be available within the next year.