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April 2017Vol. 18, No. 2Structured Decision-Making Model

The National Council on Crime and Delinquency's Structured Decision Making (SDM) model is a suite of assessment tools that promote safety and well-being for vulnerable populations, such as youth in foster care and youth involved with the juvenile justice system, as well as vulnerable adults. The five-part SDM model combines evidence-based research with best practices to offer workers a framework for consistent decision-making and agencies a way to target resources toward those who can benefit most.

The SDM models focus on the following areas of child welfare:

  • SDM Model in Child Protection—The child protection model uses intake, safety, risk, family strength and needs, and reunification assessments to help reduce harm to children and ensure permanency. In addition, the model includes clearly defined service standards, mechanisms for timely reassessments, methods for measuring workload, and mechanisms for ensuring accountability and quality controls.
  • SDM Model in Foster Care and Placement Support—Focused on placement stability, this model helps agencies and workers in making better decisions for and with foster and kinship families. The foster care and placement support model uses support, placement, provision-of-care, and placement safety assessments to assist in the decision-making involved in placing a child in foster care.
  • SDM Model in Juvenile Justice—This model uses detention screening and actuarial risk assessments, a disposition matrix, and postdisposition decisions and case management tools to improve outcomes for youth who are or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system.

Other SDM models include the SDM Model in Adult Protection, which helps agencies promote the safety of older adults and adults with disabilities, and the SDM Model in Welfare-to-Work, which helps employment counselors identify those most likely to have difficulty finding and maintaining sustainable employment.

For more information on the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's SDM models, visit