Structured decision-making is an approach to child protective services that uses clearly defined and consistently applied decision-making criteria for screening for investigation, determining response priority, identifying immediate threatened harm, and estimating the risk of future abuse and neglect. Child and family needs and strengths are identified and considered in developing and monitoring progress toward a case plan.
Effectiveness of California's Child Welfare Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Model: A Prospective Study of the Validity of the California Family Risk Assessment (PDF - 5350 KB)
Activities and outcomes of the California Child Welfare Structured Decision-Making (SDM) project, which investigated the effectiveness of a set of assessment tools in helping front-line child welfare workers and their supervisors improve their decision-making.
An Evaluation of the Minnesota SDM Family Risk Assessment: Final Report (PDF - 2000 KB)
Loman & Siegel (2004)
Analyzes the instrument's reliability and validity for all populations and for specific cultural subgroups.
Evaluation of Michigan's Foster Care Structured Decision-Making Case Management System
National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Children's Research Center (2002)
Study that found agencies using the structured assessments had higher permanency rates than comparison counties. Also see the addendum (PDF - 104 KB) to this report.
The Next Step: Integrating Actuarial Risk Assessment and Clinical Judgment Into an Evidence-Based Practice Framework in CPS Case Management
Shlonsky & Wagner
Children and Youth Services Review, 27(4), 2005
Highlights the structured decision-making (SDM) approach as an example of an effort to integrate predictive and contextual assessment strategies into child welfare practice.
Showcase: Safety Outcomes and Decision-Making Approaches (PDF - 198 KB)
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Provides jurisdictions with information on models and approaches for targeting safety outcomes. This showcase highlights several examples, including using decision-making models, such as the ACTION for Child Protection Safety Assessment Family Evaluation Model and Structured Decision Making; using practice models that incorporate safety assessments to support decision-making (such as the Signs of Safety practice model); teaming during different decision-making points; and using existing data to engage in predictive analytics.