Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said yesterday at a meeting of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee she believes committee members are closing in on agreement on a bill that would  pilot a predictive analytics program to improve screening tools for the child welfare system.

The bill, named the Using Data to Help Protect Children and Families Act, would provide $10 million in grants for up to five state or local governments to pilot predictive analytics models to help determine the children most at risk of maltreatment. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., noted during the meeting that between four and eight children die every day in the U.S. due to abuse or neglect.

“I’m hopeful we can find a bipartisan agreement that provides a path forward for this new pilot, and the safeguards that are necessary for any new unproven program like this,” said Sen. Murray, ranking member of the committee.

“Used well, predictive analytics can help child welfare workers make better decisions about child safety and wellbeing, but if used poorly, they may perpetuate and amplify existing problems like biases based on race or socioeconomic status, or urban/rural inequities,” she said. “I believe we all want this bill to purposefully work to reduce bias in order to move us to better risk screening tools for child safety and wellbeing, and to keep this unproven pilot accountable to that goal.”

“We’re getting very close to an agreement, and… I believe we can get there if we have a shared goal for that program,” added Murray. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the committee, said members will continue to work together on the legislation.

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