Can Big Data Help Save Abused Kids? New at Reason

For too long, we’ve been asking undertrained social workers to make high-stakes decisions about children and families based on patchy data and gut intuition. The result is a system riddled with the biases, inattention, bad incentives, error, and malice that plague all human endeavors, but especially massive government bureaucracies. Every day, some kids are forcibly taken from their parents for the wrong reasons while others are left to suffer despite copious warning signs. The children the system is failing are disproportionately poor and members of racial minority groups. In many cases, their families have been devastated by generations of family breakdown, unemployment, drug abuse, and crime. But these cannot be excuses for leaving their fates to a system with such deep and abiding flaws.

Conservatives have too often thrown up their hands, arguing that government cannot replace the family and there is not much to be done until the institution of marriage is repaired. Liberals, meanwhile, have suggested that these problems can’t be fixed until we end poverty and racism. In the meantime, bureaucrats are bumbling into the lives of too many families just trying to do their best while leaving some of the most vulnerable children in society unprotected.

We can do better.

Naomi Schaeffer Riley explains how in the latest issue of Reason.

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