In February of 2016, the state-driven Linking Part C and Part B 619 Cohort began with the hope of joining or “wedding” data from these two programs to address program and policy questions such as planning for and implementing smooth transitions, evaluating outcomes for children enrolled in these programs, and streamlining and improving the accuracy of IDEA federal reporting data.
State Part C and Part B 619 partners were given the opportunity to self-select into the cohort. It immediately became apparent that no two states were alike. Some states were in a long-term partnership with their counterpart while others were in the “honeymoon” phase of their partnership. Regardless of the partnership status, to participate in the cohort, all states needed to have one thing in common: commitment.
Commitment is critical to any partnership because it allows for the sharing of goals, purpose, and vision. With it, partners can “stick it out” when external stressors such as staff turnover, shifting priorities, or political agendas influence the partnership. As you begin to think about linking your Part C and Part B 619 data, you may want to assess your partnership to see if either partner has questions about how to move forward and ensure success.
The commitment from both programs provides an opportunity to come together to answer questions that either program cannot answer alone. To optimize this commitment, we want to share three things we learned from the Linking Part C and Part B 619 Cohort:
#1 Document Your Shared Purpose and Vision:
All states participating in the cohort began the journey by completing a purpose and vision self-assessment. This included articulating short and long-term goals for linking data. These goals became the foundation for the purpose and vision behind the linking efforts and helped to identify the gaps between where the state was and where the state wanted to be. Having a documented plan has ensured both programs are on the same page working toward the same goals and has allowed consistent messaging when sharing data linking efforts with leadership and stakeholders. More importantly, the documented plan reminds both programs of the value of the partnership and the shared outcomes that both gain.
#2 Communication, Collaboration, and Coordination:
Partnerships take work, which means they take time and effort. If you want a successful Part C and Part B 619 partnership, you must be willing to work at it. Open communication increases trust and will enable both parties to identify and resolve potential linking challenges. When challenges are identified, the key to partnership success lies in compromise. Both parties will have opportunities for compromise during the linking process, usually resulting in solutions that strengthen and solidify the partnership. For example, many Cohort states had to compromise when deciding data sharing agreement language, critical questions and priorities for linked data. Cohort states have been able to move their linking work forward through the establishment of regularly scheduled meetings and joint data committees.
#3 Know When to Ask for Assistance
No matter what challenges may arise in your partnership, remember that there is help. There are many considerations when linking data between Part C and Part B 619, many of which may require novel solutions. Whether you are making decisions about unique identifiers and matching or trying to draft data sharing agreements and memorandums of understanding – you do not have to go it alone. Cohort states benefitted from technical assistance in the form of onsite visits, meeting facilitation, resource creation and/or review, peer support, and many other customized supports by DaSy and other partner center TA experts. These supports are available to all states regardless of where they are in the linking data process.
Linking data takes time and effort – but, as the states in our Cohort have shown us, the challenges can be overcome to benefit both programs and the children and families they serve. Now that you have strengthened your commitment and partnership, let the linking work begin!