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WHAT IS
	 DARK DATA?
Find out why
child welfare agencies that
regularly make extremely difficult decisions
need to surface “dark data”—critical, but hidden information—to
make informed, confident decisions and reduce trauma to kids.
Dark data: Information collected from numerous sources over a
long period of time that becomes hidden or virtually impossible
to retrieve when making decisions to protect children and
strengthen families.
SO, WHAT
DOES THAT
REALLY MEAN?
You have thousands of
pictures on your phone. Know
where to find each one?
Who’s in them? What’s in the
background? This is how easy
it is for data to get buried.
THINK ABOUT IT THIS WAY:
LET’S LOOK
CLOSER THROUGH A
CHILD WELFARE LENS:
How about the report buried
in 232 pages of medical information?
Would you be able to find the one line of text saying a child
with severe mental health issues that just came into your care has
previously spent time in a behavioral health hospital that could
provide past insight?
Would you be able to find one sentence
hiding on one page of a lengthy court document that mentions
who would be willing and able to raise or care for a child your
agency needs to place? If it was one of 432 documents related
to the case, would you even know where to start?
The more you know,
the more informed
decision you can make.
That’s where dark data
makes a difference.
WHY DOES
DARK DATA EXIST?
The digital age has dramatically increased the volume of
information, which is coming at social workers faster
than they can manage.
The average caseload
is between 24 and 31
cases.ii
Due to the sheer volume,
breadth, and complexity
of a case file, it can take
a child welfare worker
upwards of 12 hours to
review the history of just
one case.iii
A typical child welfare case file
contains over 1,000 documents, or
approximately 4,000-5,000 pages
of information.i
In some jurisdictions,
worker turnover is as high
as 90 percent per year…v
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
As a result, an
estimated 80% of case content
is considered dark data and cannot
be utilized by an agency when
making critical decisions.
Turnover compounds
the problem, often causing
workers to recollect
information that
already exists.
80% OF CASE CONTENT
Behavioral Health Records
Court Records
Drug Screens
Emails
Law Enforcement Reports
Medical Records
School Records
Social Media
Photos
Physical Health Records
WHY IS
	 ACCESSING
DARK DATA 			
	 CRITICAL?
SHINING LIGHT
ON DARK DATA
IN CHILD WELFARE
If an agency can capture, process, and analyze dark
data in real time, many things can happen:
BUILD TRUST:
Spare families from repeating information and re-living
traumatic experiences
REDUCE TRAUMA TO KIDS:
Make the best decision for a child at every step
MINIMIZE DELAYS:
Quickly understand case themes or topics of concern
in order to apply critical thinking to major decisions
MAKE CONFIDENT DECISIONS:
Use intimate, detailed knowledge about the case,
family, and child to support major decisions
“Her mother explained that
she was admitted to Belmore
Tress Behavioral Health
Hospital for excessive
sedation a couple of years ago.”
“This GAL also spoke with Rita Smith, maternal
grandmother to JE.A., Ju.A. and J.C. during
this visit. Rita Smith stated that she has a
friend living out of state, named Jess Johnson,
who is able and willing to care for the children
in case things don't work out in her home.”
Download our eBook
for answers to more
common questions
around dark data in
child welfare:
teamnorthwoods.com/
darkdata
Sources
i.	 Jacob Meetze, Intake Investigator, Beaufort County Department of Social Services
ii.	 Interviews with child welfare workers
iii.	 “If You’re Right for the Job, It’s the Best Job in the World,” National Association of
Social Workers, June 2004 at p. 15.
iv.	 “Worker Turnover,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.
gov/topics/management/workforce/retention/workforce-retention/turnover/
teamnorthwoods.com
DARK DATA
Found on page 12 of 232
Found in document 121 of 432, page 9 of 56

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Dark Data Defined: What It Means and Why It's Critical for Child Welfare

  • 1. WHAT IS DARK DATA? Find out why child welfare agencies that regularly make extremely difficult decisions need to surface “dark data”—critical, but hidden information—to make informed, confident decisions and reduce trauma to kids. Dark data: Information collected from numerous sources over a long period of time that becomes hidden or virtually impossible to retrieve when making decisions to protect children and strengthen families. SO, WHAT DOES THAT REALLY MEAN? You have thousands of pictures on your phone. Know where to find each one? Who’s in them? What’s in the background? This is how easy it is for data to get buried. THINK ABOUT IT THIS WAY: LET’S LOOK CLOSER THROUGH A CHILD WELFARE LENS: How about the report buried in 232 pages of medical information? Would you be able to find the one line of text saying a child with severe mental health issues that just came into your care has previously spent time in a behavioral health hospital that could provide past insight? Would you be able to find one sentence hiding on one page of a lengthy court document that mentions who would be willing and able to raise or care for a child your agency needs to place? If it was one of 432 documents related to the case, would you even know where to start? The more you know, the more informed decision you can make. That’s where dark data makes a difference. WHY DOES DARK DATA EXIST? The digital age has dramatically increased the volume of information, which is coming at social workers faster than they can manage. The average caseload is between 24 and 31 cases.ii Due to the sheer volume, breadth, and complexity of a case file, it can take a child welfare worker upwards of 12 hours to review the history of just one case.iii A typical child welfare case file contains over 1,000 documents, or approximately 4,000-5,000 pages of information.i In some jurisdictions, worker turnover is as high as 90 percent per year…v - Child Welfare Information Gateway As a result, an estimated 80% of case content is considered dark data and cannot be utilized by an agency when making critical decisions. Turnover compounds the problem, often causing workers to recollect information that already exists. 80% OF CASE CONTENT Behavioral Health Records Court Records Drug Screens Emails Law Enforcement Reports Medical Records School Records Social Media Photos Physical Health Records WHY IS ACCESSING DARK DATA CRITICAL? SHINING LIGHT ON DARK DATA IN CHILD WELFARE If an agency can capture, process, and analyze dark data in real time, many things can happen: BUILD TRUST: Spare families from repeating information and re-living traumatic experiences REDUCE TRAUMA TO KIDS: Make the best decision for a child at every step MINIMIZE DELAYS: Quickly understand case themes or topics of concern in order to apply critical thinking to major decisions MAKE CONFIDENT DECISIONS: Use intimate, detailed knowledge about the case, family, and child to support major decisions “Her mother explained that she was admitted to Belmore Tress Behavioral Health Hospital for excessive sedation a couple of years ago.” “This GAL also spoke with Rita Smith, maternal grandmother to JE.A., Ju.A. and J.C. during this visit. Rita Smith stated that she has a friend living out of state, named Jess Johnson, who is able and willing to care for the children in case things don't work out in her home.” Download our eBook for answers to more common questions around dark data in child welfare: teamnorthwoods.com/ darkdata Sources i. Jacob Meetze, Intake Investigator, Beaufort County Department of Social Services ii. Interviews with child welfare workers iii. “If You’re Right for the Job, It’s the Best Job in the World,” National Association of Social Workers, June 2004 at p. 15. iv. “Worker Turnover,” Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare. gov/topics/management/workforce/retention/workforce-retention/turnover/ teamnorthwoods.com DARK DATA Found on page 12 of 232 Found in document 121 of 432, page 9 of 56