Los Angeles County, with the country’s largest child protective services agency, believes there is a better way to protect at-risk youth than the current outdated and costly approach. LA County is piloting the use of predictive analytics technology from software company SAS to better identify children who may otherwise be left vulnerable.

For professionals working in child protective services, it remains difficult to use the frequency of calls about suspected abuse to identify which children are living at a high level of risk.

Instead of case agents having to call around to uncover more information about a child, SAS is streamlining the process by retrieving relevant statistics from government agencies — departments of health, education and corrections — and importing that information into one database.

Atypical data points — like a child visiting an emergency room and switching schools often — would raise red flags.  There would also be information about the child's family, since experts say that whoever is living with the child has a large influence on his or her well-being. The SAS tool provides a risk score based on numerous factors, as well as a map of that child's social network and data related to those connections, such as criminal history.