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Effectiveness of California's Child Welfare Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Model: A Prospective Study of the Validity of the California Family Risk Assessment

NCJ Number
Will Johnson Ph.D.
Date Published
February 2004
99 pages
This report presents an evaluation of California's use of the structured decisionmaking model in family risk assessments.
The California Family Risk Assessment (CFRA) uses the structured decisionmaking model (SDM) to provide child welfare workers with information necessary for determining a caretaker's risk of maltreating their children within 2 years of the receipt and investigation of a maltreatment report. This study examined the effectiveness of the CFRA in correctly calculating a family's risk of future maltreatment. Findings from the study show that in the absence of receipt of effective services, higher CFRA risk scores are associated with higher rates of maltreatment subsequent to assessment with the CFRA. In addition, the findings indicate that the relationship between higher risk scores and future maltreatment is completely monotonic, that is it is not affected by other independent variables such as race/ethnicity or county/community size. Data for this evaluation came from the analysis of risk assessments for 7,685 families in which child welfare workers used the CFRA at the close of the initial investigation to determine the risk of future maltreatment. The analysis investigated the relationship between high risk scores and future maltreatment rates, and found that as risk scores rise, future maltreatment rates rise, despite the effects of independent variables. Tables, figures, and references