Structured Decision Making® Risk Assessment

Children's Administration began using the Structured Decision Making® (SDM®) actuarial risk assessment in October 2007. SDM® replaced the consensus-based Washington Risk Assessment (WRA) that had been in use for 20 years.

Actuarial risk assessment is a statistical procedure for estimating the probability that a critical event will occur at some future time. SDM® uses factors associated with higher rates of abuse and neglect to identify families who are most likely to experience a future event of child abuse or neglect. SDM® supports Children's Administration staff in making decisions about the highest risk families who should receive intervention.

Children's Administration contracted with the Children's Research Center, the developer of SDM®, to complete an analysis of Washington's implementation of SDM® in 2008. The SDM Post-Implementation report includes:

  • How well the risk assessment was classifying families investigated by CA
  • Comparison of risk assessment findings to safety assessment results and service decision
  • Suggestions for ongoing implementation

In May 2011, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy published a study on the SDM® risk assessment and whether it had reduced racial disproportionality in Washington's child welfare system. The study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy and the commentary on the study by the Children's Research Center are posted below:

Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) 2011 report

Children's Research Center's 2011 commentary on WSIPP 2011 report