What counts? quantification, worker judgment, and divergence in child welfare decision-making


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

In an effort to manage risk under chronic resource constraints, information uncertainty and accountability pressures, U.S. child welfare organizations have embraced the Structured Decision-Making (SDM) model, which combines actuarial-based risk assessment with clinical decision-making. Though 33 states have adopted the SDM to impose greater rationality and precision to child welfare decision-making, little is yet known about how actuarial-based risk assessment interacts with child welfare workers’ own judgment in implementation, and to what effect. Drawing on original data from a case study of 4 child welfare agencies in one state, this paper examines the nature of this interplay, and its implications for the quality of worker decision-making, child welfare, and worker job satisfaction.

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