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The complex problems facing major municipalities necessitate that policymakers have access to timely and accurate information from multiple service systems and agencies. Philadelphia has two information systems—KIDS, or the Kids Integrated Data System, and CARES, a database that integrates administrative records across 11 City agencies—that can be leveraged to identify best practices and improve service delivery for children and youth across the public education, health, behavioral health, human services, and family court systems. The integration of these data systems can provide system leaders and policymakers with compelling information on patterns of multi-system program use, costs, and outcomes.
Through her Stoneleigh Fellowship, Heather Rouse worked to support the establishment of a Policy Analysis Center (PAC) in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity. The PAC would integrate the KIDS and CARES systems and would be evaluated according to three criteria:
- Do findings from PAC research projects result in practice or policy changes?
- Do actual benefits of these changes justify the cost of PAC operations?
- Can PAC outcomes be communicated to the citizens of Philadelphia in a timely manner to foster community dialogue?
In her capacity as the PAC’s first-ever Deputy Research Director, Heather helped to set up a full-time staff infrastructure as well as a Governing Board, Project Advisory Teams, a Data Advisory Group, and a Research Advisory Board for the Center. Heather also prepared a proposal of technical solutions for the new integrated data system as well as a series of research questions related to three priority areas identified by the Nutter administration: early childhood education, truancy, and homelessness.