2541. Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment®(SDMRA)

Original Date: October 22, 2007

Revised Date: July 25, 2021

Sunset Review Date: July 25, 2025

Approved By: Jody Becker, Deputy Secretary

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on how to complete a Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment (SDMRA). The SDMRA focuses on the characteristics of the caregivers and children living in a household. Completing the SDMRA in conjunction with the Safety Assessment gives caseworkers an objective appraisal of the risk to a child, and identifies if services are needed.


This policy applies to child welfare (CW) employees.


RCW 26.44.030  Reports – Duty and authority to make  – Duty of receiving agency –  Duty to notify – Case planning and consultation – Penalty for unauthorized exchange of information – Filing dependency petitions – Investigations – Interviews of children – Record – Risk assessment process.

Executive Order 12-04 Amending the Use of Community Protection Teams


  1. DCYF must conduct risk assessments when investigating or assessing allegations of child abuse or neglect (CA/N) on screened-in referrals requiring a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation or Family Assessment Response (FAR). This includes Risk Only intakes.
  2. Caseworkers must:
    1. Complete risk assessments:
      1. Using the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment (SDMRA) DCYF 15-16-208 form in FamLink in the following timeframes from the date of intake:
        1. 60 days for CPS investigations.
        2. 60 days for Risk Only intakes
        3. 45 days for CPS FAR.
      2. Prior to offering ongoing services or transferring the case to another program area.
    2. Offer services to families with a high SDMRA score.
    3. Conduct a Child Protection Team (CPT) staffing for all investigations with a high SDMRA score on all identified child victims age six years or younger, unless a Family Team Decision Meeting (FTDM) is held.
  3. Caseworkers may offer services to families with a moderately high SDMRA score.
  4. Caseworkers must not offer services to families when observable, verifiable, and describable changes have been made within the family that reduce the identified risk in the SDMRA, unless a safety threat exists.


  1. When the SDMRA is complete, caseworkers must do the following:
    1. When the SDMRA score is “high”:
      1. Offer services to families, unless observable, verifiable, and describable changes have been made within the family. When this occurs, document this on the Family Assessment Response Family Assessment (FARFA) and Investigative Assessment (IA) disposition tab in FamLink. 
      2. Follow the Child Protection Teams (CPT) policy, when applicable.
    2. When the SDMRA scores is "moderately high,” consider offering services.
    3. When children or youth are determined to be unsafe, follow the Safety Plan policy.
    4. Refer families to appropriate evidence-based or promising programs where available, when services are offered. If they are not available, refer other relevant agency-contracted or community services.
    5. Document "Transferred to Tribal Authority" per the Indian Child Welfare (ICW) Manual on the FARFA and IA disposition tab in FamLink when a Tribe is assuming responsibility for providing services and monitoring the family.
  2. If circumstances exist for the family that are not captured by the SDMRA and the caseworker has reason to believe the family’s risk is higher than the SDMRA results, they may increase the risk level through a discretionary override, allowing for services to be offered.
  3. During monthly supervisor reviews and when cases are submitted for closure, supervisors must:
    1. Review the SDMRA scores and verify that the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment DCYF 16-208 form in FamLink is filled out accurately and timely.
    2. Verify that services were offered, when needed.


Safety Assessment/Safety Plan DCYF 15-258

Safety Plan DCYF 15-258B

Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment DCYF 16-208 (Located on the DCYF intranet)


Child Protection Teams (CPT) policy

Comparing and Understanding the Differences: Risk of Maltreatment, Present Danger, Impending Danger - article

CPS Service Delivery policy

Structured Decision Making Procedures Manual (Located on the DCYF intranet)

The Differences between Risk and Safety - article