Washington State Institute for Public Policy
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214
PO Box 40999
Olympia, WA 98504-0999
FAX (360) 586-2793
The 2007 Washington State Legislature created theWashington State Racial Disproportionality AdvisoryCommittee (Committee).
The Committee wascharged with determining if children of racial andethnic minorities were over-represented inWashington’s child welfare system. The WashingtonState Institute for Public Policy (Institute) providedtechnical assistance to the committee. Findingspublished in 2008 indicated that American Indian,Black, and Latino children were more likely thanWhite children in Washington to be the alleged victimsin referrals to Child Protective Services (CPS).
Among children with CPS referrals, Indian and Blackchildren were more likely to be placed in foster careand more likely to remain in foster care for over twoyears than White children with CPS referrals.
In 2009, based on recommendations in the Committeeremediation plan, the Legislature directed the Instituteto study the effects of implementation of Family TeamDecision Making (FTDM)
and Structured DecisionMaking
(SDM) on racial disproportionality.
Findingsfor FTDM were published earlier.
This report focuseson findings for SDM.
* This report replaces the earlier title
Structured Decision Making® Risk Assessment: Does It Reduce Racial Disproportionality In Washington’s Child Welfare System?
inorder to clarify that this evaluation includes only the SDM riskassessment, and not the entire SDM model.
Laws of 2007, Chapter 465, SHB 1472
M. Miller. (2008).
Racial disproportionality in Washington State’s child welfare system
. Olympia: Washington StateInstitute for Public Policy, Document No. 08-06-3901.
Throughout this report, we use the term foster care to meanremoval from home to placement in licensed foster homes,group homes, or the care of unlicensed relatives.
Under the FTDM model, facilitated meetings are convenedwhenever child placement decisions are made. Attendeesinclude parents and other family members, the child (whenappropriate), friends, foster parents, caseworkers, and otherprofessionals involved with the case.
Laws of 2009, Ch. 213, ESSB 5882
M. Miller. (2011).
Family Team Decision Making: Does it reduce racial disproportionality in Washington’s child welfare system?
Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy,Document No. 11-03-3901.
In 2008, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy(Institute), together with the Washington State RacialDisproportionality Advisory Committee, studied racialdisproportionality in Washington’s child welfare system. Wefound that following referrals to Child Protective Services(CPS), Indian and Black children (but not Asian or Latinochildren) were more likely to be placed and remain in fostercare significantly longer than White children.The Structured Decision Making (SDM) model is a system ofassessment tools used at various decision points in the childwelfare system. DSHS Children’s Administration adopted theSDM risk assessment, but not any other SDM tools. The riskassessment is used during CPS investigations to classifyfamilies on their risk of further child maltreatment.The 2009 Legislature directed the Institute to study theeffects of SDM on racial disproportionality.
Between 2004 and 2008, we found marked year-to-yearvariation in disproportionality following CPS referrals(Disproportionality Index After Referral: DIAR), especially forBlack children. This variation can be partly explained by ratesof referral that also differed from year to year.Our analysis took advantage of the fact that SDM wasimplemented statewide in October 2007. We assumed that ifSDM affected outcomes for children, we would see the effect ofSDM by comparing outcomes for children with referrals in 2008with those of children with referrals in earlier years.When our analysis combined children of all races, we observedno effect of SDM on:
Out-of-home placements, or
New reports to CPS.We also analyzed outcomes for each race separately. ForWhite, Indian, Asian, and Latino children we found no effectof SDM on placements or new CPS reports.Black children with referrals in 2008 were more likely to beremoved from home and more likely to have new CPSreferrals than Black children with referrals in earlier years.We cannot be certain that the SDM risk assessment was thecause of the differences in 2008; differences may also be theproduct of the largely unexplained year-to-year fluctuations indisproportionality for Black children.