SDM® Model Offers Tools for Prevention
Many families’ first encounter with formal public services begins with economic assistance. After exhausting their own resources and informal supports, financially stretched families might seek help from a program like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Research shows crossover between families that receive financial assistance and those that have future involvement with child protective services (CPS). Not every family that is eligible for economic support ends up CPS involved. However, if we know which families have a higher likelihood of future involvement with child protection, additional supports may be available to help the family address the challenges they are facing.

Structured Decision Making® (SDM) prevention services tools are intended to help structure decisions regarding which families may benefit from additional services. Participating in screening for services and the services themselves is completely voluntary. Whether or not a family complies with screening and/or receiving services has no bearing on their TANF application or benefit.

The first assessment in the SDM® prevention services model results in a risk classification of low, moderate, high, or very high. Families classified as high or very high risk are more likely to be CPS involved in the future; therefore, they are referred to a prevention services program.

The second assessment helps guide workers in assessing family strengths and needs across different domains of family functioning in order to identify the most beneficial services or resources.

The third assessment is completed to reassess risk level and help guide the decision to either close or continue the prevention services component.

Prevention and supportive services involve collaboration among the family, formal services, physical resources, and informal support networks. This cross-system collaboration is crucial in prevention to ensure that the unique skills of all participants are used to develop and achieve the family’s goals.


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