Communities and Justice

Structured Decision Making

What is Structured Decision Making?

Structured Decision Making (SDM) has been implemented in the Community Services child protection system in accordance with specific recommendations made in the 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 (PDF, 5.0 MB).

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 tailored and developed for the Child Protection Helpline by Community Services. Input from staff and a range of NSW mandatory reporters who attended SDM workshops in Sydney, was incorporated in the development of these tools:

  • guidance for mandatory reporters (MRG)
  • screening tool for Helpline
  • response priority tool for Helpline


An introductory presentation is available that 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 continues to work with NSW practitioners and policy makers to help progress implementation of the system both within Community Services and for use in the sector.

Further information on SDM can be obtained from the Evident Change (formerly CRC) website.

Last updated:

23 Apr 2024