Team Decision Making: A Better Way To Assess Child Safety

Posted May 24, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog teamdecisionmakingabetter 2017

Team deci­sion mak­ing (TDM) is a depar­ture from tra­di­tion­al child wel­fare prac­tice. Instead of a sin­gle case­work­er deter­min­ing what to do in a cri­sis that requires con­sid­er­a­tion of out-of-home care because of child abuse or neglect, TDM brings togeth­er par­ents, fam­i­ly, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and oth­ers to assess the sit­u­a­tion and deter­mine how best to keep the child safe.

TDM enables those clos­est to a child to par­tic­i­pate in prob­lem solv­ing. Is a child or teen safe at home, or should they leave for a time until safe­ty can be assured? If they must leave, can they live with rel­a­tives or will a fos­ter home be need­ed? Engag­ing a child’s entire net­work helps those involved iden­ti­fy the best solu­tion and builds trust between those clos­est to the child and the child wel­fare agency.

Down­load Casey’s info­graph­ic on team deci­sion making

Many child wel­fare agen­cies endeav­or to engage fam­i­lies in their work of keep­ing chil­dren and fam­i­lies safe. TDM takes that a step fur­ther, by involv­ing in deci­sion mak­ing fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, as well as the child or teen, depend­ing on their age and abilities.

My belief in Team Deci­sion Mak­ing is grow­ing with every meet­ing. Whether I’m facil­i­tat­ing or observ­ing, the ben­e­fits I see are end­less,” says Claire Von­all­men, a TDM facil­i­ta­tor in Spring­field, Mis­souri. TDM’s col­lab­o­ra­tive method is giv­ing every­one at the table an oppor­tu­ni­ty to express their wor­ries for harm or dan­ger, rec­og­nize the fam­i­ly’s strengths and suc­cess­es, and cre­ate a plan with every­one’s input to mit­i­gate safety.”

Child wel­fare agen­cies that use TDM involve a vari­ety of stake­hold­ers — such as grass­roots com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, agency staff, ser­vice providers, coach­es, teach­ers — who can con­tribute insight, guid­ance and sup­port to help par­ents and the agency make crit­i­cal deci­sions about a child’s future.

Research has indi­cat­ed that the ben­e­fits of high-qual­i­ty TDM include:

  • Increased like­li­hood that a child who enters care will live with rel­a­tives or fos­ter par­ents from the start, not in a devel­op­men­tal­ly inap­pro­pri­ate shel­ter or group setting.
  • Increased like­li­hood that a child will reuni­fy with a par­ent or fam­i­ly mem­ber with­in a year.
  • Decreased chances that a child will expe­ri­ence repeat maltreatment.

The Casey Foun­da­tion has sup­port­ed the devel­op­ment of TDM for near­ly 20 years. Based on promis­ing research find­ings, Casey is pur­su­ing an evi­dence-based prac­tice des­ig­na­tion for TDM to sup­port its con­tin­ued growth and expand the pos­i­tive out­comes it can bring to chil­dren and families.

TDM is a great tool. It puts the safe­ty of chil­dren first and rec­og­nizes the impor­tant role fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties play in a child or teen’s life and well-being,” says Tracey Feild, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Child Wel­fare Strat­e­gy Group. It also ensures more con­sis­tent deci­sion mak­ing with­in agen­cies by ana­lyz­ing data on how deci­sions affect chil­dren and families.”

Since Jan­u­ary 2020, the Nation­al Coun­cil on Crime and Del­i­quen­cy has man­aged TDM, and is work­ing to expand the practice’s reach, impact and evi­dence base.

To learn more about TDM, read Casey’s 2014 case study, Engag­ing Fam­i­lies in Place­ment Deci­sions.

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