Skip to Content

What is Structured Decision Making?

Structured Decision Making (SDM) is to be trialled in the Community Services child protection system in accordance with specific recommendations made in the recent Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services NSW.

This reflects the implementation of a Common Assessment Framework as outlined in the Government action plan Keep Them Safe: A shared approach to child wellbeing.

SDM is a process that ensures each key decision in child protection is informed by information known through research to be relevant to that decision. A number of decision making tools underpin SDM and assist staff in making key decisions.

Structured decision making tools

SDM tools are currently being tailored and developed for trial in Community Services. Input from staff and a range of NSW mandatory reporters who recently attended SDM workshops in Sydney, will be incorporated in the development of these tools.

The initial tools in development are:

  • guidance for mandatory reporters
  • screening tool for Helpline
  • response priority tool for Helpline


The introductory presentation provides a broad overview of SDM.

It outlines the rationale in the Wood report for the adoption of SDM, the goals and objectives of SDM, core SDM assessment levels and tools, and research on the effectiveness of SDM tools.

The presentation was prepared by Dr Raelene Freitag and Rick Wiebush of the Children’s Research Centre (CRC), an American based non-profit social research organisation which implements SDM systems in a variety of human service fields, both in USA and in Australia.

The CRC will work with NSW practitioners and policy makers over the next few years to trial the SDM tools and to help progress further implementation of the system both within Community Services and for use in the sector.

Further information on SDM can be obtained from the CRC website:

Was this content useful?
Your rating will help us improve the website.
Last updated: 24 Sep 2019