Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Rolls Out New Risk Assessment for Child Protection

Our Staff

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Rolls Out New Risk Assessment for Child Protection

August 25, 2015 | by NCCD

Actuarial risk assessment is proven tool for classifying families by risk of future abuse and neglect

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) today will begin statewide use of the Structured Decision Making® (SDM) actuarial risk assessment. Texas joins dozens of jurisdictions across the United States and internationally that are using this assessment, which helps caseworkers classify families by risk of future abuse and neglect. Results of the assessment will be used by Texas DFPS to target resources and interventions effectively to families who need them most.“An abundance of research shows that even the most experienced workers benefit from guidance and structuring of difficult decisions,” said Dr. Raelene Freitag, Director of the NCCD Children’s Research Center. “The SDM® system is providing that guidance in Texas, and we are happy to be working with Texas DFPS to help achieve its goals for better decisions for children and families.”“The implementation of SDM assessments represents an important step in Texas DFPS’ commitment to its children, families, and communities,” said George Cannata, Child Protective Services Deputy Assistant Commissioner. “We’re pleased with how useful our workers are finding the assessments, but what we are tremendously excited about is our enhanced ability to keep Texas’s children safe.”

The SDM system is designed to focus workers’ information gathering at every point in a child protection case on the most pertinent information for that decision. This enables consistent and valid decision making, as well as greater equity across families.

Texas CPS investigators who have served as “early adopters” since May have said the SDM risk assessment is “easy to use and makes sense.” Survey data bear this out, showing that 100% of early adopters agreed that the risk assessment was easy to use and that its definitions, policies, and procedures are clearly written and readily understandable.

Texas DFPS early adopters also began using the SDM safety assessment in January of this year, and have reported high levels of satisfaction with this tool as well.

DFPS has made the SDM model a core element of their practice model, with the goal of grounding all of their decision making in shared language as they work to engage families differently in assessment and planning processes for reaching better outcomes.