Skip to main content

IU and Elkhart County’s system of care collaborate on a child dashboard to identify negative trends and improve child well-being

The SOURCE/IU collaboration helps community leaders identify adverse trends and address them quickly to improve child well-being.

Research and discovery Dec 3, 2021

Beate Henschel, Biostatistician, IU Biostatistics Consulting Center

IU’s Beate Henschel from the Biostatistics Consulting Center (BCC) with the IUB School of Public Health and Robert Henschel from the Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab (CTIL) are working with Rebecca Shetler Fast, the director of Elkhart County’s system of care, The SOURCE, to build a child dashboard for the community leaders of Elkhart County. The dashboard provides data from various community organizations and enables community leaders to identify adverse trends and address them before they become a more significant issue. According to Rebecca, “Leaders across the county can have more real-time info about trends and well-being, risk and protective factors that impact children in our community.” Rebecca’s hope is that access to this information gives community leaders the context they need to make data-informed decisions and take strategic action. However, her bigger goal is to improve child well-being in the Elkhart County community.

Robert Henschel, Co-Director, IU Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab, a collaboration between the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering (Luddy) and University Information Technology Services (UITS) housed in the Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) at Indiana University

The SOURCE is a system of care, which is a coordinated network of community partners, formal and informal, who provide services and support for youth who have mental health concerns - or are at risk for them - and their families. The SOURCE is funded through a significant multi-year grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand the system of care throughout the county.  The SOURCE aims to be an effective system of care. An effective system of care is built on collaboration and fills in the gaps in services and supports for children with mental health concerns.

Beate and Robert began working with Rebecca in January 2021 to bring the dashboard to life, using Jetstream for prototyping. Jetstream is designed to provide configurable cyberinfrastructure that gives researchers access to interactive computing and data analysis resources on demand, whenever and wherever they want to analyze their data.

Rebecca Shetler Fast and Elkhart County community leaders

Rebecca has worked tirelessly to bring diverse stakeholders together to share their data. Robert posits, “I’ve seen dashboards fail more often than I’ve seen them succeed. Mostly because bringing diverse stakeholders together to share their metrics is not an easy thing. Rebecca, in particular, has done a great job in rallying the stakeholders behind the dashboard and convincing them to agree to share their data and agree on the way the data is presented. A lot of effort goes into the political side of this dashboard. The technical challenges are there, but the make or break is on the political side, and Rebecca is doing really well with that.”  Rebecca shares her strategy, “You have to convince people to share data and then continually reinforce that you’re not going to use that data to point fingers. There’s this continual balance of trust and reinforcing those messages all the time with people.”

Image from the Elkhart County Dashboard, accessed 12/2/2021.

Rebecca would like leaders from any organization that touches kids or youth to take advantage of the dashboard. Leaders such as political leaders, superintendents, principals, nonprofit leaders, social services leaders, faith leaders, and more are invited to use the dashboard. Additionally, Rebecca and The SOURCE will be giving out mini action grants to community leaders. The grants are each worth $2,000 and are easily accessible to leaders in the community. To apply for a mini grant, a community leader needs to refer to a dashboard indicator and explain what action they want to take within their organization to mitigate a trend or to improve it.

Rebecca Shetler Fast, Director, Elkhart County’s system of care, The SOURCE

Leaders across the county can have more real-time info about trends and well-being, risk and protective factors that impact children in our community.

Rebecca Shetler Fast

Rebecca wants the community to know that this dashboard would not have been possible without IU, specifically IU’s Beate Henschel and Robert Henschel. Of Robert, Rebecca says, “Robert is very intelligent, skilled, and practical. He understands the big picture and vision and doesn’t get caught up in the technical or fancy part of it. Robert listens deeply to what [we are] trying to do in the community and tries to make the tool fit that vision in a very thoughtful and wise way.” Beate’s role has been to facilitate data collection for the dashboard and help visualize the data. She advised Rebecca how to think about the data and how best to maneuver it. Rebecca says, “Robert and Beate are experts in their field, but they have this community orientation and pragmatic approach that works really well.”

More stories