Service Utilization and the Individual, Family, and Neighborhood Characteristics of Children with Disabilities in Illinois. III. DATA--INTEGRATED DATABASE ON CHILDREN'S SERVICES IN ILLINOIS


One of the unfortunate consequences of administering services to children through more than one public agency is that information about children and youth receiving services from the state is scattered among the various agencies. The fact that each agency provides only a specified range of services to children and has limited responsibility toward them inevitably restricts each agency's view of the client and its knowledge of the client's history and participation in the service system as a whole. No public agency or other office of state government has been charged with the responsibility of gathering together all the information about children that is collected across the human services, and none of the agencies has routine access to information gathered and stored by the others.

The Illinois Integrated Database on Children and Family Services is a state-level, longitudinal, and relational database constructed out of administrative data gathered by public agencies serving children and families. The database tracks all child and family contact with the following programs and services: foster care, child abuse and neglect, special education, mental health, juvenile justice, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In the aggregate, these records represent all child contact with Illinois human services over the course of a decade and can be made to yield a detailed and comprehensive picture of children's service provision in the state.

Administrative databases constitute a rich though underutilized source of knowledge about the operation of the children's service system. What is especially important about these databases is that they document the characteristics of entire client populations, that they often preserve a wealth of information about each child, and that in many cases they extend back more than a decade. The utility of the database, and the kinds of analyses it can support, are greatly enhanced by linking together all records pertaining to each individual client, resulting in a complete record of that client's contact with the agency over the years. Each administrative database represents a complete, longitudinal record of the experiences of the entire population of children receiving service over the time span of the data.

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