Equity and the SDM® System
NCCD is dedicated to creating equitable social systems for individuals, families, and communities. We do this through research, public policy, and practice. But how?
When developing, customizing, and updating our Structured Decision Making® (SDM) assessment tools, we aim to ensure that the same case characteristics, risk factors, vulnerabilities, and functioning are assessed in a consistent manner for every individual, regardless of any social differences between the worker and client. Detailed definitions and thresholds for each item on each SDM® assessment tool, paired with ongoing coaching around how to apply the definitions, increase the likelihood of equity and consistent practice in decision making across workers.
Good tools promote consistent and fair assessments, which support worker decisions intended to result in the best outcomes for children, families, and vulnerable adults. But fair assessment tools alone are not enough. Sometimes, by focusing only on being equal, fair, and consistent, we unintentionally create inequity.
Equality ≠ Equity
Equality is the idea of treating everyone the same. Equity—at least in the realm of child welfare and adult protection—means providing interventions and services to those who need them and can benefit most.
As NCCD staff continue to research and collect data around equity efforts and begin recognizing patterns of inequity, we are committed to evolving our understanding, processes, and tools to move toward better practice.
How will we know we are headed in the right direction on this equity journey? NCCD staff must do the following.
  • Become aware of our individual privilege and work across difference, acknowledging that all oppression is interconnected.
  • Pay attention to who is at the table and support the involvement of a variety of cultures, experiences, and populations at all levels of decision making.
  • Ensure that the decision-making tools we develop in partnership with jurisdictions are data driven and that we continuously review and enhance our assessment tools with an evolving equity lens.
The strengths of NCCD and the agencies we work with lie in partnering together in this equity journey and working across difference to promote better understanding and appreciation of the complex and changing communities in which we all work. By acknowledging the importance of balancing equality and equity, we can work to overcome the institutional racism and biases that affect the treatment of the children, families, and vulnerable adults in the systems we serve.

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