Better Outcomes Through Data-Sharing: San Francisco’s Shared Youth Database

Do we really know our kids well enough to serve them well? If not, how do we build local partnerships and systems that make it possible to share sensitive and confidential information about young people while still protecting the privacy rights of parents and children?

Over the course of four decades working to keep young people safe and helping them to thrive, I’ve learned that nothing is more important than seeing the entire picture.

If a child is disruptive in school, her teachers and the school social worker may only know that the child has a discipline problem that needs to be addressed. They may not know that she suffered abuse at the hands of an “uncle” for several years (information held by child protective services), that her father is in prison (information held by the court or probation), or that her brother was shot on the street a few weeks earlier (information held by the police).

Similarly, if a youth is charged with a juvenile offense, her probation officer may see a requirement of school attendance as in her best interests. What that officer may not know is that her learning disabilities make school a place of personal shame and pain rather than a place where she feels she can get her life back on track.

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