Social work conference launches research network

A two-day conference hosted by the USC School of Social Work has spawned a new data collaboration between researchers and policymakers.

The Children’s Data Network kicked off at the event, titled “Advancing Science of Children’s Services Through Large Data,” with the goal of using administrative data to generate research relating to policies and programs affecting children.

More than 100 people participated in the event, representing state and county governments, researchers, foundations and L.A. partner organizations. This kind of collaboration between such a diverse group of children’s health professionals and academics is unusual.

“It is exceptionally rare to bring together the most prominent thought leaders in child welfare for the exchange of ideas about future data development, issues in large administrative database use and other related questions,” said Marilyn Flynn, dean of the School of Social Work, in a press release. “It changes and advances the dialogue on how we can better understand and create relevant policies addressing children’s needs.”

A major breakthrough resulted from this conference will be the linking together of state- and county-level data sources. This will allow both social workers, researchers and others involved in child welfare to have a more complete profile of the factors affecting a child. The collaboration between universities, local and state governments will hopefully make strides in the study of social work in addition to more effective policymaking.

The presentations focused on the importance of linking data, making data available to universities and community stakeholders, the use of data in holistic evaluation of children and the appropriate methods for obtaining and organizing data.

“The CDN is not just about researchers in an academic setting crunching numbers,” said assistant professor Emily Putnam-Hornstein in a press release. ”We want it to be a collaborative project where the work that emerges is actionable and relevant.”

Putnam-Hornstein noted that as a whole, the conference served to garner interest in the new program.

“We viewed the convening as an opportunity to get people excited about the potential of the network,” Putnam-Hornstein said in a press release.