Expertise | Information Technology

Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative: Building a Customized Data System

A notable example of Metis Associates' work in building web-enabled database applications is the data system we have developed for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. A national foundation working in 18 U.S. states, Jim Casey works to support young people leaving foster care in making successful transitions to adulthood. One of the key components is a savings account that is opened for each participant and matched by Jim Casey and other funding partners. Matched savings accounts are emerging as one of the most promising tools to enable low-income individuals save, build assets, and enter the financial mainstream. They can be particularly helpful to young people transitioning out of foster care, who are not typically afforded the opportunity to learn money-management skills or gain assets. Using the matched savings mechanism, Jim Casey sites have helped young people learn financial-management skills, become connected to the mainstream banking system, save money, and purchase assets that can help them transition successfully to adulthood.

In 2004, Metis IT professionals developed a web-based data system for Jim Casey sites to store, track, and report their matched savings data for young people participating in the Opportunity Passport™. The Opportunity Passport™ provides a full range of financial-education services to young people aging out of care, including matched savings accounts that participants can use to work toward purchasing assets. This system, a Java application built on a scalable infrastructure, was created on industry-standard, open-source software packages (for example, Apache and MySQL) so that it can run on any operating systems platform. It was designed to handle multiple programs, each assigned its own database.

In 2012, Jim Casey asked Metis to develop a new data system designed to support key features of its modified Opportunity Passport™ program, to reflect recent programmatic changes and respond to sites' need for a more flexible, intuitive, and useful data system. The new system, called the Opportunity Passport™ Data System (OPDS), collects, stores, and reports on participant-level data (including demographic information, financial education, asset training and asset purchases), site data (e.g., funding partners, leveraged funds, and financial-education curricula), and state data (e.g., policy and practice improvements.) The OPDS development was guided by a stakeholder group composed of site representatives and Jim Casey staff. This system was developed using Microsoft ASP.NET Framework 4.0 for the front end and Microsoft SQL SERVER 2008 for the back end, as well as SQL 2008 R2 Reporting Services. In addition to containing an extensive pre-programmed reporting menu to enable uniform reporting across sites, the new system also provides an ad hoc reporting feature that enables sites to create and run their own statistical reports and to produce participant lists displaying most of the data elements contained in the system.