Placement stability is a significant concern across foster care systems. The Structured Decision Making® (SDM) model for foster care and placement support assists agencies and workers in making better decisions for and with foster and kinship families. This evidence- and research-based system identifies the key points in the life of a foster care placement and uses structured assessments to improve the consistency and validity of each decision. The SDM® model for foster care and placement support works to reduce placement disruption through four assessments:
- Support assessment: This actuarial assessment estimates the likelihood that a negative placement outcome will occur (e.g., placement disruption, child maltreatment allegation, licensing violation). Foster homes with a greater probability of disruption or other negative outcome can then be targeted for additional supports from the agency to improve placement stability and safety.
- Placement assessment: Completed at the time a child is placed into a foster home, this assessment helps the worker to quickly determine if any threats to the child's safety are present in the home, or if the child being placed may present a concern for the safety of any other child in the home. If threats are identified, the assessment guides the worker to consider if a safety plan will keep the child safe, or if a different placement is required.
- Provision of care assessment: This helps support workers assess the ability and willingness of foster parents to meet child needs in a variety of domains. Workers are then able to identify gaps between the child's needs and the foster home's ability to meet those needs soon after the placement is made, improving care for the child and support for the family.
- Placement safety assessment: Whenever there is an allegation of child maltreatment in a foster home or concerns about child safety in placement are raised, this assessment is completed. It assists the worker in determining if any threats to child safety are present and if a safety plan could contain such threats and allow the child to remain in the foster home.