Multistate site vs. state-specific site
The web tool has two main platforms: the Multistate site and the state-specific site. In this post, I explain the differences between them and give examples of when you might want to use each. Whereas all Data Center member states have access to the Multistate site, individual states must elect to create a state-specific site. You’ll know whether or not your state has a state-specific site after you log in to the system. If your state has a state-specific site, after logging in you’ll be asked to choose whether you want to proceed to the Multistate or state-specific site. If your state does not have a state-specific site, you’ll be taken directly to the Multistate site.
The Multistate site:
When a state joins the Data Center, our staff create a longitudinal file based on children’s records pulled directly from the state’s SACWIS or other electronic data collection system. That file becomes part of the Multistate Foster Care Data Archive (FCDA)—a huge repository maintained by the Data Center that contains foster care records for children in (as of this writing) 30 states. The FCDA is the database behind the Multistate platform of the web tool; running an analysis through the Multistate site triggers a live query of the FCDA.
The Multistate site is the platform that enables you to compare your state to other states in the FCDA. In order accommodate apples-to-apples analyses between states, all the states in the FCDA use the same variable names and codes. For example, in the FCDA, there are only four categories of placement type: non-relative foster care (PFC), kinship care (PKC), congregate care (PCC), and other (POT).
The other thing that is consistent across states in the FCDA is the definition of a foster care spell—the circumstances under which a period of time in foster care “counts” as a spell in care. For example, the FCDA establishes physical custody spells, which means that it considers runaways and trial home visits as exits from foster care (not as placement types in foster care). Read the Key Terms page of the User Guide to see the complete FCDA definition of “spell.”
When should you use the Multistate site?
- When you want to compare your outcomes to those in another state or group of states.
- When you want to run quick and easy Profile Reports (only available on the Multistate site)
- When you want to run Benchmark Reports (only available on the Multistate site)
A state-specific site allows your state to customize which variables are available for analysis and the codes used to classify them, based on rules that your state identifies. Because the state-specific site allows your state to use its own coding scheme, this means that must limit analyses to those that pertain to your state, alone. Still, a state-specific site has many advantages:
- It can allow you to redefine what qualifies as a “spell” in foster care in the event that your state defines “spell” differently than the Multistate site (i.e., the FCDA) does. For example, some state-specific sites calculate legal custody spells (whereas the Multistate site calculates physical custody spells).
- It can enable you to conduct analyses by more granular sub-populations than those offered on Multistate site. For example, the Multistate site uses one placement category to cover all congregate care placements; a state-specific site can break that category down so that you can analyze children in specific types of congregate care (e.g., shelters, residential treatment centers, hospitals, etc.)
- It permits the addition of variables not available on the Multistate site. For example, on their state-specific sites, some states choose to add a variable pertaining to the reason the child entered care or a variable that flags whether the child had contact with the juvenile justice system.
When should you use the state-specific site?
- When you want to conduct analyses based on codes and definitions that are unique to your state.
- When you want to look at outcomes for children based on a more granular breakdown of variables like placement type and exit type.
Every state-specific site is different. Contact your state’s Data Center liaison for more information on the coding specifications for your particular state.