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KVC Health Systems and Emporia State University Launch Data Analytics Research to Benefit Children in Foster Care

Children in foster care - KVC Health Systems Emporia State predictive analytics

Across every sector, the value of data analytics is skyrocketing. Data analytics can answer important, real-world questions by transforming raw data into insights that influence business decision-making, shape policy, and improve people’s lives. Now, child welfare leader KVC Health Systems and graduate students at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas are working together to unlock the power of data analytics for the state’s most vulnerable children – those served by the child welfare system.

Through a new partnership, KVC Health Systems will make its robust historical data available to a group of graduate students in Emporia State University’s (ESU) Master of Science in Informatics program. KVC Health Systems’ largest subsidiary, KVC Kansas, has been a foster care case management provider on behalf of the Kansas Department for Children and Families since 1996. Over the last 25 years, KVC Kansas has served tens of thousands of children and families with parenting education and support, mental health treatment, foster care, family reunification services, adoption, and other vital services. KVC not only provides these direct services; its team of developers and data scientists also built and maintain the mobile-friendly case management software and other applications that help social workers and therapists do their work. By organizing its decades of client data in a coherent, accessible, anonymous manner, data scientists can mine the information for new insights.

Some of the topics that may be analyzed include reasons why children enter foster care, length of time in foster care, factors influencing placement stability, placement with relatives and/or siblings, and child safety and wellbeing. By using statistics and modeling techniques to determine future performance based on current and historical data, KVC and ESU will explore the potential of predictive analytics to improve outcomes for children who need temporary foster care.

In addition to uncovering valuable insights, this partnership will help students learn about the ethical, confidential and privacy aspects of data. In this case, the data has been de-identified and will only be analyzed for children who are no longer in foster care. Students will also learn about how to recognize and account for implicit bias in data. For example, the disproportionate number of Black children in foster care means that data scientists must demonstrate transparency, caution and critical thinking when using predictive analytics. At the conclusion of the program, students will present their research findings and submit their findings to academic journals.

There are two more ways ESU students will be involved with KVC in beyond the data analytics research. A group of ESU data science students will complete internships at KVC Health Systems and ESU’s Applied Sociology graduate students will work closely with KVC on social justice initiatives. The Applied Sociology students will learn more about program evaluation and performance management, grant proposal writing, and qualitative research methods.

ESU’s M.S. in Informatics program is a 36-credit hour STEM-focused graduate degree program that provides practical skills in data science and economic research. Students learn to formulate important research questions, collect and analyze data, and provide answers that may have business and/or policy implications.

Dr Bekah Selby Emporia State University KVC Health Systems data analytics children in foster care

Dr. Bekah Selby

Dr. Bekah Selby is one the faculty leads for the program. According to professor Selby, “The partnership with KVC Health Systems is incredibly exciting! It provides our students a rare and valuable opportunity to use real-world data to do applied work during their studies rather than relying on textbook, often hypothetical, datasets. Many of our students are mid-career professionals and would find this experience very interesting, rewarding, and productive. This partnership enhances the educational value of the program; moreover, it brings the expertise of a health economist and high-powered graduate students to assist KVC Health Systems by conducting high-powered analytical research consistent with their mission to provide exceptional care.”

Lonnie Johnson CIO KVC Health Systems

Lonnie Johnson

“This partnership brings together two resources that, when kept separate, bring limited value to the community,” said Lonnie Johnson, Chief Information Officer at KVC Health Systems. “When we combine the academic knowledge of ESU informatics students with the rich historical information owned by KVC, we stand to unlock a plethora of hidden insights that can greatly enhance the way we treat children and families. This research project will also allow us to document how we can avoid the biases that sometimes appear in predictive analytics.”

About KVC Health Systems

KVC Health Systems is a family of private, nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations that strengthen families, prevent child abuse and neglect, and help people achieve mental health wellness. For over 50 years, KVC has provided heart-centered service to children and families in need, becoming a national leader in mental/behavioral health and child welfare. KVC has positively impacted the lives of over 300,000 people through in-home family strengthening services, foster care, adoption, mental health treatment, and inpatient children’s psychiatric treatment. The organization employs 1,500 professionals across Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Learn more at www.kvc.org.

About Emporia State University

Emporia State University offers over 200 academic programs in the School of Business, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Library and Information Management and The Teachers College. For five consecutive years, ESU is the only public university in Kansas to have earned national recognition as a College of Distinction, an honor for universities that demonstrate innovative application of high-impact education. U.S. News rated Emporia State as the highest-ranked regional public institution in Kansas and the only public regional that ranked in social mobility. For more information, visit www.emporia.edu.