Guidelines for Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public
A. Administration for Children and Families
- Scope and
Applicability of Guidelines
- Types of
Information Disseminated by the Agency to the Public
- Types of
- Quality Assurance
Policies, Standards, and Processes for Ensuring the Quality of Information
Disseminated to the Public
Administrative Complaint Procedures
- Responsibility of the
- Responsibility of the
Scientific, Financial and Statistical Information
I. Agency Mission
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is responsible for
administering numerous federal programs: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
(TANF), child support, child care, Head Start, child welfare and other programs
relating to children and families; services for those with developmental
disabilities and mental retardation, refugee services, and Native
American/Tribal programs. Actual services are provided by state, county, city,
and tribal governments, and public and private local agencies. ACF assists
these organizations through funding, policy direction, and information
II. Scope and Applicability of Guidelines for Agency
ACF is committed to ensuring that disseminated information meets the
standards of quality set forth in the OMB, HHS and ACF guidelines. It is ACF's
policy to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity
of information that it disseminates to the public. We strive to provide
information that is accurate, reliable, clear, complete, unbiased, and useful.
We are committed to integrating the principle of information quality into every
phase of information development, including creation, collection, maintenance,
The pre-dissemination review described in the guidelines applies to
information disseminated on or after October 1, 2002. The administrative
mechanism for correction applies to information that the agency disseminates on
or after October 1, 2002, regardless of when the agency first disseminated the
information. This section identifies the types of information covered by the
Guidelines, and also lists the types of information that are exempt. ACF
information subject to the Information Quality Guidelines includes:
- Statistical information;
- Studies and summaries prepared for public dissemination to inform the
public about the impact of programs administered by the agency; and
- Studies and summaries prepared for use in formulating broad program
The following types of information are not subject to the Information
- Information relating to ACF programs, archival information,
clearinghouses, and Internet distribution of studies, reports, documents,
summaries, and articles not authored by the agency and not representing the
agency's views, including materials authored and distributed by ACF grantees;
- Information limited in dissemination to government employees (intra-
or interagency) or agency contractors or grantees;
- Information pertaining to basic agency operations or management
information produced primarily for internal use;
- Procedural or policy manuals;
- Responses to requests for agency records under the Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or
other similar laws;
- Information relating solely to correspondence with individuals or
- Press releases that support the announcement or give public notice of
information that ACF has disseminated elsewhere.
III. Types of Information Disseminated by the Agency to the
Given the wide variety of programs administered by the Administration
for Children and Families, and the numerous types of information generated by
these programs, it is not possible to offer a comprehensive list of all
dissemination activities conducted by the agency. Consequently, the following
examples have been drawn selectively from a cross-section of ACF programs.
However, it should be noted that not all of the information described below is
subject to the OMB Guidelines.
- Program Information -- descriptions of programs such as Head
Start, child care, child welfare and youth services, child support enforcement,
community services, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and
low-income family assistance programs; budget and funding information; data on
numbers and locales of grantees; types of services supported through agency
programs; and other descriptive information. For example, the Children's Bureau
makes available a variety of materials relating to basic program information.
Fact sheets describing the purpose and funding level of each of the Children's
Bureau's programs are available on the ACF web site. The Children's Bureau web
site also has information of a general nature relating to child welfare, for
instance, information on how to report child abuse and neglect or how to become
a foster or adoptive parent.
Examples of information offered by a typical web site
(Administration on Developmental Disabilities) to the public include: a home
page; staff directory; calendar of major program events; a fact sheet; links to
state-based grantees; updates on various major initiatives; links to national
disability organizations and related disability sites; connectivity to the
Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, current
regulations, program highlights and outcomes; and a section devoted to
frequently asked questions, where the public can search for answers to their
questions or email a question to the program staff.
The Family and Youth Services Bureau's (FYSB) National
Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NCFY) disseminates:
- The Exchange, a periodical focusing on issues of interest
to youth service professionals;
- FYSB Update, a periodical sharing information about the
Bureau's research and demonstration projects;
- Technical assistance publications, providing guidance about how
to address specific policy or operational issues;
- Publications for young people, parents and community members
(developed by FYSB and NCFY); and
- Publications from all sources on youth issues (including those
not developed by FYSB).
Statistical information -- information on numbers of
sub-populations served through ACF programs supported wholly or in part by
Federal dollars (e.g., characteristics and financial circumstances of families
served by TANF; information on program recipients' participation in work
activities; information on the child support caseload; number and
characteristics of children who are victims of child abuse and neglect or who
are adopted from public child welfare systems; number of children served in
Head Start; percentage of Head Start teachers with a college degree; numbers
and characteristics of children served by Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs;
number of children in each State receiving a child care subsidy under the Child
Care and Development Fund.). Each year, the Children's Bureau publishes a
report called "Child Maltreatment," presenting the latest statistics and trends
in child abuse and neglect. In addition, the Children's Bureau publishes an
annual report on "Outcomes in Child Welfare" with information from each State.
Research and evaluation reports focused on social science
research and evaluation pertinent to ACF programs and policy. The web site of
each program within ACF makes the most recent reports available to members of
the research community and the general public. Examples of research and
evaluation reports disseminated include the "1998 National Estimates of the
Number of Boarder Babies, Abandoned Infants and Discarded Infants" and the
final report of the "Third National Incidence Study on Child Abuse and
Reports to the Congress -- Several programs submit annual
reports to Congress in compliance with legislative provisions authorizing their
implementation. For example, the Children's Bureau's report, "Blending
Perspectives and Building Common Ground: A Report to Congress on Substance
Abuse and Child Protection" complies with such a legislative provision. In
August 2000, TANF submitted the Third Annual Report to Congress to comply with
section 411(b) of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996. The Family and Youth Services Bureau
submits a biennial report to Congress that describes Runaway and Homeless Youth
(RHY) operations and other activities. After release to Congress, this report
is made available in the public domain. Annual RHY caseload data from the
Runaway and Homeless Youth Management Information System (RHYMIS) are included
in the Report to Congress and provided on request to grantees, researchers,
advocacy organizations, and the general public.
IV. Types of Dissemination Methods
Information is disseminated through printed, electronic, and
presentation materials. Dissemination vehicles include brochures and targeted
mailings to State officials, grantees, or others responsible for administering
programs; posting information on the ACF web site; making information available
through clearinghouses and resource centers; presenting and distributing
information at appropriate conferences; and electronically collecting and
distributing aggregated and disaggregated program-related data. Research funded
by several agency programs is also disseminated through peer-reviewed journals.
Research and evaluation reports are disseminated in a number of ways.
Reports with particular policy relevance and findings are distributed directly
by mail to State program directors or other targeted audiences. Information on
newly released reports is also shared with organizations that warehouse and
broadcast information through their own networks (e.g., the Welfare Information
Network and the Research Forum on Children, Families and the New Federalism).
ACF's web site provides information on current research and evaluation
projects, posts reports (or links to reports), and disseminates information
through a listserv. In addition, ACF sponsors research conferences such as an
annual Welfare Reform Research and Evaluation Conference that attracts State
program staff, Federal regional staff researchers in the field and other
organizations interested in ACF programs.
V. Quality Assurance Policies, Standards and Processes for
Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated to the Public
At ACF, the quality assurance process begins at the inception of the
information development process. Further, ACF reviews the quality (including
the objectivity, utility, and integrity) of information before it is
disseminated and treats information quality as integral to every step of the
development of information, including its creation, collection, maintenance and
The review procedures may vary among programs depending upon the
requirements of the program and the type of information to be disseminated:
- Statistical Information: Statistical information pertaining to
several programs disseminated by ACF is gathered from State agencies or local
grantees. To assure the quality, integrity and consistency of this information,
ACF staff review and analyze the data, subject the data to electronic
validation procedures such as logic and edit checks, and contact the State or
grantee to seek clarification in case discrepancies arise. States are provided
opportunities to review and revise their information prior to publication in a
federally published document or their placement on the web site. For example,
TANF data collection is subject to edit and consistency checks and additional
statistical analyses through a series of frequency distributions and cross
tabulations to ensure the quality of data. The TANF program shares compiled
information (e.g., work participation rates and High Performance Bonus data)
with the States before publication to ensure accuracy.
- Surveys: Surveys sponsored by ACF are conducted using
methodologies that are consistent with generally accepted professional
standards for all aspects of survey development, including sample frame
development, statistical design of the survey sample, questionnaire design and
testing, data collection, sampling and coverage errors, nonresponse analysis,
imputation of missing data, weights and variance estimates. ACF surveys follow
guidelines and policies set forth in the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and
other regulations related to the conduct of government surveys. ACF is
committed to demonstrating in its PRA clearance packages that each draft
information collection will result in information that will be collected,
maintained, and used in a way that is consistent with OMB, HHS and ACF
information quality guidelines. For example, ACF currently is funding a major
multi-year longitudinal survey -- the National Survey of Child and Adolescent
Well-Being (NSCAW) -- designed and implemented by a reputable national research
organization. This project consults with a technical advisory group composed of
state officials, members of the academic community, child welfare professionals
and practitioners, and federal experts in the implementation of this study.
Major research and evaluation studies sponsored by the agency usually rely upon
technical advisory groups or federal experts or both for project guidance.
- Analytic Reports and Policy Studies: Reports submitted by
grantees and contractors for projects funded by ACF are subject to internal
reviews by several agency officials for quality, objectivity, and accuracy.
Federal experts from within and outside of the Department often monitor interim
and final reports of projects with crosscutting implications.
Information contained in analytical reports and policy studies is
based on estimates derived from reliable administrative data and external data
sources. All data sources are identified. All analytic reports and policy
studies are reviewed by technically qualified staff to ensure valid, complete,
unbiased, objective and relevant analysis. Analytic reports and policy studies
considered to be more technically complex are also reviewed by subject matter
experts outside of the originating organizational component to provide
additional perspective and expertise.
- Policy documents are cleared through ACF and Departmental
clearance procedures, including review by the Office of the General Counsel (to
assure proper legal interpretation), as well as review by numerous other
knowledgeable officials. In some cases, a technical advisory group convened for
a specific project may review and comment on a report prior to its release. For
example, the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) has developed intra-Departmental
procedures for assuring the quality of disseminated information. The Office of
the General Counsel, key OFA staff, and other offices review significant policy
documents, where appropriate, and the documents are cleared by the Office
Director before issuance. All ACF regulations and reports to Congress are
subject to review and clearance under both ACF and Office of the Secretary's
clearance processes in addition to other reviews.
Policy for Correcting Errors:
If an error is detected in the agency's reports and publications before
mailing, it is corrected. If these materials have already been mailed, ACF
issues a special notification to the recipients or includes an errata sheet
with the subsequent publications. Errors in materials in the agency's web site
are corrected online.
VI. Agency Administrative Complaint Procedures
ACF has developed administrative mechanisms to allow affected persons to
seek and obtain correction of disseminated information that does not comply
with OMB, HHS and ACF guidelines.
External complaints about information disseminated can be made in the form of written correspondence. The Chief Information Officer (CIO), is the ACF official designated to receive and resolve complaints regarding information that does not comply with either the OMB guidelines or the agency's guidelines. The CIO's address is: Chief Information Officer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration , Administration for Children and Families, Aerospace Building, 6th Floor, 370 L'Enfant Promenade SW, Washington, D.C. 20447. Feedback and complaints may be sent electronically to InfoQuality@acf.hhs.gov.
- Responsibility of the Complainant
To seek a correction of information disseminated by the agency,
individuals should follow the procedures described below:
- A complaint or request for review and correction of information
shall be in written hard copy or electronic form;
- It shall be sent to the agency by mail or electronic-mail
- It shall state that an information quality request for correction
is being submitted.
The complaint shall contain
- a detailed description of the specific material that needs to be
corrected including where the material is located, i.e., the publication title,
date, and publication number, if any, or the website and web page address
(URL), or the speech title, presenter, date and place of delivery;
- The specific reasons for believing the information does not
comply with OMB, HHS or ACF guidelines and is in error and supporting
documentation, if any;
- The specific recommendations for correcting the information;
- A description of how the person submitting the complaint is
affected by the information error; and
- The name, mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address, and
organizational affiliation, if any, of the individual making the complaint.
Complainants should be aware that they bear the "burden of proof"
with respect to the necessity for correction as well as with respect to the
type of correction they seek.
- Responsibility of the Agency
Based on a review of the information provided, the agency will
determine whether a correction is warranted and, if so, what action to take.
The agency will respond to the requestor by letter or e-mail. The agency's
response will explain the findings of the review and the actions that the
agency will take, if any. The response will consider the nature and timeliness
of the information involved and such factors as the significance of the
correction on the use of the information and the magnitude of the correction.
The response will describe how the complainant may request reconsideration. The
agency will respond to all requests for correction within 60 calendar days of
receipt. If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, the
agency will inform the complainant that more time is required and indicate the
reason why and an estimated decision date.
If the individual submitting the complaint does not agree with the
agency's decision (including the corrective action, if any), the complainant
may send a written hard copy or electronic request for reconsideration within
30 days of receipt of the agency's decision. The appeal shall state the reasons
why the agency response is insufficient or inadequate. Complainants shall
attach a copy of their original request and the agency response to it, clearly
mark the appeal with the words, "Information Quality Appeal," and send the
appeal to the specific agency appeals address.
The agency official who resolved the original complaint will not
have responsibility for the appeal. The agency will respond to all requests for
appeals within 60 calendar days of receipt. If the request requires more than
60 calendar days to resolve, the agency will inform the complainant that more
time is required and indicate the reason why and an estimated decision date.
VII. Influential Scientific, Financial and Statistical
The Guidelines apply to certain statistical information disseminated by
ACF in view of the potential substantial impact on important public policies.
Since statistical information for major ACF programs such as foster care, child
abuse and neglect, TANF, etc., are provided by States, ACF will work closely
with the States to assure the completeness, reliability, and integrity of the
data and the transparency of methodology and analytical techniques.
Last revised: November 13, 2003