CSDA tool has a key role in US child harm prevention program

18 Sep, 2020

Human services staff in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, are using a CSDA tool to match high needs families with intensive support services as part of a proactive child harm prevention program introduced this month.

The ‘Hello Baby’ program is designed to engage and support all county families with new-born babies, with the goal of preventing neglect, maltreatment, and a range of associated adversities in the future.  Hello Baby offers universal services for all families plus two comprehensive service levels for families with higher needs.

“Our research centre is committed to using data science for positive impact, so we have really welcomed the chance to be involved in a program dedicated to reducing the rates of harm suffered by children,” says research lead Rhema Vaithianathan.

CSDA’s PRM tool was chosen as one of the ways to identify families who should be offered the higher levels of Hello Baby support once the research team demonstrated it can fairly and accurately stratify families by need.

“The Hello Baby PRM tool uses existing rich data to prioritise families according to the risk of adverse outcomes, which really helps the county to match the most resource heavy efforts to the right people, for the best chance of shifting the dial on levels of harm across the population,” says Vaithianathan. “Our research demonstrated that using the PRM for eligibility prioritises many more families at true risk of adverse outcomes than traditional eligibility pathways like professional referral or using a ‘threshold’ like the receipt of a public benefit.”

Hello Baby targets children aged zero to three because they are at high risk of preventable harm. The program was prompted by Allegheny County’s recognition that, while it has extensive support services for families and children in place, those services do not always reach the families who need them most.

Hello Baby offers a ‘Universal’ tier for all families plus the ‘Family Support’ and ‘Priority’ tiers of service. At the Family Support level, families with moderate needs are prioritised for support from Family Center outreach workers who can connect them with an array of existing services. And at the Priority level, families with the most complex needs are contacted by a family engagement specialist and a social worker through a community-based agency. With the family’s consent, this team of two will assess the family’s needs, prioritise them into services, and provide ongoing support and coordination.

Find out more about the Hello Baby project and link to key project documents.