There has been a sustained focus on how to make better use of federal administrative data to conduct research and evaluation of government-funded programs in order to improve outcomes and efficiency for the people we serve. Research and evaluation are not esoteric pursuits separate from the business of program operations and strategy, but must go hand-in-hand with other efforts to ensure programs and policies meet their goals and adapt to new challenges. Making full use of rich data that has already been collected can greatly increase our knowledge about how to improve performance and effectiveness without additional burden on states, communities, or other grantees or requiring significant new resources.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) collects a wide range of data from grantees and other stakeholders. Though these data are used primarily to manage programs, they provide rich opportunities to conduct further analysis and research. ACF has long relied on these data sources to better understand its program operations and outcomes, and in some cases, conduct evaluations. These efforts have already had some success, and more can be done to build on that success. In addition, ACF sponsors various survey data collections in order to understand specific programs and populations, resources which are often enhanced by linking to administrative records from both within and beyond ACF.