Some of us are BFFs (best friends forever) with data. Information. Statistics. Numbers. Facts. Figures. We get along great and spend most of our days together. Our worlds are intertwined like middle school girls, truly inseparable. Others of us sit at the wrong table in the cafeteria and stay as far away from data as possible. Data, to us, is like a bully seeking to make our lives miserable.

In my role as chief strategy officer at FaithBridge, I forged a friendship with data, working to gather, analyze and present information in ways that are approachable, simple and attractive for those who want to better understand their local foster care landscape. Creating a common narrative, informed by the facts, is important to our organization and the communities and partners we serve, so it’s something we spend a lot of time doing.

06.06.15 CAFO Data Presentation CAFO Logo As a result, I was invited to the one-day National Foster Care Intensive at the 2015 Christian Alliance for Orphan’s Summit to present on how data can be helpful.

After all, there’s a story in the numbers.

The data points on child welfare can be endless when examining the numbers of children, foster families and the gap between the two.  Not to mention the data and outcomes for permanency, well-being and safety, information on length of stay, reasons children come into care, plus basic demographics are all included. And if that’s not enough, it’s important to understand these numbers are not only inclusive at a single point in time, but also as time passes while monitoring the numbers trending up or down.

Add in the complexity of understanding the data on a national, state and local level…and your head can begin to spin. But don’t give up! The data helps set the stage for your ministry and informs your strategy. Bringing together child welfare, church and census data and combing that with survey insights from pastors, church-goers and foster care alumni will help inform a conversation about where your ministry should focus.

Together, this information can help explain the trends of foster care, bring understanding around a need for more foster families, identify factors to prevent children from entering care and paint a picture that captivates donors and local leaders.

Where do you find data, your new BFF?

In the realm of child welfare, there are several sources that can provide helpful information and data that tells the story.

Data makes all the difference. It writes the stories we so desperately want to tell about foster care ministry while unveiling the truth and bringing needs to the surface.  It creates reasons to celebrate.

Every community has a story. What story is the data in your area going to write?