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Structured Decision Making

1. What is Structued Decision Making?
The burden of child welfare agencies is to provide services with limited public resources in a climate of increasing demand for those services. The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services has implemented Structured Decision Making for the following reasons:

  • to provide workers with simple, objective, and reliable tools with which to make the best possible decisions for individual cases; and
  • to provide managers with information for improved planning and resource allocation.

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Components of Structured Decision Making:
  • Response Priority, which helps determine if and when to investigate a referral
  • Safety Assessment, for identifying immediate threatened harm to a child
  • Risk Assessment, estimates the risk of future abuse or neglect and guides in case opening
  • Family Strengths and Needs Assessment, used for identifying family strengths and needs and assist with case planning.
  • Risk Reassessment, combines items from the original risk assessment tool with additional items that evaluate a family's progress toward case plan goals.
  • Reunification Reassessment, to structure critical case management decisions for children in placement who have a reunification goal

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2. SDM Goals

Overall Goal:

  • Better protection of children.

Process Goals:

  • Improve assessments of family situations in order to better ascertain the protection needs of children.
  • Increase consistency in case assessment and case management among child abuse/neglect staff within a county and among counties.
  • Increase the efficiency of child protection operations by making the best use of available resources.
  • Provide management with data needed for program administration, planning, evaluation, and budgeting.

System Goals:

  • Reduce the rate of subsequent abuse/neglect complaints and substantiations.
  • Reduce the severity of subsequent abuse/neglect complaints.
  • Reduce the rate of foster care placement.
  • Reduce the length of stay in foster care.

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