The Children’s Data Network, based in California, now holds the single largest dataset on children and youth in the United States. In order to support and develop upon investment into programs for children and youths experiencing adversities, this valuable and rich source of data offers researchers opportunities to more accurately assess root causes of children’s circumstances, and track their progression over time.

Research using these data will lead to improvements in the provision of programs and services, provide guidance on more equitable future investments, and allow for improved assessment and monitoring over time.

Historically, the data captured for each child was held separately for each program. If a child accessed more than one support program, their separate records could not be linked together to provide a complete journey of their interactions with the various services. This made it very difficult to assess requirements of the services and their users, and to develop the programs effectively and create policy. In 2014, the Children’s Data Network (CDN) was established to fill this gap.

The CDN is a data and research collaborative that links and analyses administrative records. Now in its eighth year, the CDN specializes in organising and linking these separate records, connecting the dots for entire groups of children born in California.

By doing so, the data can be used to follow the paths, experiences, and outcomes of California’s children over time. This valuable resource also allows researchers to answer vital questions that were previously not possible, to guide evaluations of current programs, and support future policy making.

Regan Foust, Executive Director of the Children’s Data Network, explained, “You can think of the Children’s Data Network as a ‘village well’ - an environment for generating knowledge more efficiently about children and youth in California to be used for evidence-informed program and policy development. The work has so many facets; it requires an interdisciplinary, intensely collaborative, and highly effective team to make it all work.

Jonathan Hoonhout, the CDN’s Chief Operating Officer, noted, “Everyone on our team plays a crucial role in unlocking the potential of administrative records to improve the lives of children and their families. I am truly fortunate to work with this amazing group and forever grateful to our visionary funders and public sector partners who make it all possible.”

Regan and the team’s new article ‘The Children’s Data Network: Harnessing the Scientific Potential of Linked Administrative Data to Inform Children’s Programs and Policies, published today in the International Journal of Population Data Science (IJPDS), provides a summary of the CDN’s maturation into the single largest set of linked, administrative records concerning children and youth in the United States, their key accomplishments, and the risks and challenges they encountered along the way.


Click here to read the full open access article

Regan Foust, PhD, Executive Director of the Children’s Data Network

Jonathan Hoonhout, BFA, Chief Operating Officer of the Children’s Data Network


Foust, R., Hoonhout, J., Eastman, A., Prindle, J., Rebbe, R., Nghiem, H., Suthar, H., Cuccaro-Alamin, S., Mitchell, M., Dawson, W., Palmer, L., Raj, S., Ahn, E., Hammond, I., McNellan, C., Reddy, J., Chen, W.-T., Mayfield, K., Putnam-Hornstein, E. and McCroskey, J. (2021) “The Children’s Data Network: Harnessing the Scientific Potential of Linked, Administrative Data to Inform Children’s Programs and Policies”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 6(3). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v6i3.1702.