Structured decision-making (SDM) 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. This section provides resources on SDM, including State and local examples.
Assessing Risk: A Comparison of Tools for Child Welfare Practice With Indigenous Families (PDF - 3,320 KB)
Mickelson, LaLiberte, & Piescher (2017)
Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare
Provides information to help agencies select a risk-assessment approach, such as structured decision-making, to best serve indigenous populations.
Policy and Procedures Manual (PDF - 768 KB)
National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Children's Research Center & Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (2016)
Provides definitions, policies, and procedures on the Structured Decision Making model. The manual also includes information on the screening assessment, response priority assessment, safety assessment, family risk assessment, and family strengths and needs guide.
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.
Structured Decision Making (SDM)
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare (2017)
Presents information on SDM, including its goals and components. It also presents an overview of relevant peer-reviewed research on SDM.
Structured Decision Making Model® (SDM)
National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2019)
Provides a framework for agencies to ensure consistent decision-making as well as ways to target in-demand resources toward those in need.
Why Structure Decisions in Child Welfare?
The Chronicle of Social Change
Provides an overview of structured decision-making, including its research base as well as its potential and limitations.
State and Local Examples
Examination of Using Structured Decision Making and Predictive Analytics in Assessing Safety and Risk in Child Welfare (Item No. 49-A, Agenda of September 20, 2016) (PDF - 622 KB)
County of Los Angeles Office of Child Protection
Identifies the uses, strengths, and weaknesses of structured decision-making in Los Angeles County.
New Jersey Department of Children and Families Policy Manual: Structured Decision Making (SDM)
New Jersey Department of Children and Families (2018)
Outlines how SDM should be applied in New Jersey.
Structured Decision Making
California Department of Social Services (2019)
Provides information about structured decision-making in California as well as provides a policy and procedure manual.
The Structured Decision Making System: Procedure and Reference Manual: Safety and Risk Assessment (PDF - 564 KB)
Texas Department of Family and Protective Services & National Council on Crime and Delinquency (2018)
Details the policies and procedures for structured decision-making in Texas.