Communities and Justice

Frequently asked questions

Why are you changing the way you make decisions about children?

There are many factors that have influenced DCJ’s commitment to making better decisions for children.

These include:

  • Feedback from the Aboriginal community that DCJ tools are not culturally appropriate to assess Aboriginal children and families.
  • Significant evidence, practice wisdom and research that has shaped reform activity in child protection in NSW in recent years, now needs to be reflected in the way DCJ makes decisions about children.
  • Findings from the Family is Culture report identified concerns with DCJs assessment processes that must be addressed.
  • Evidence from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability in 2021.

What is Structured Decision Making™?

Structured Decision Making™ (SDM) was implemented in NSW in response to recommendations of the Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Service in NSW and as a part of Keep Them Safe reforms in 2010.

SDM uses evidence and research and structured assessments to improve the consistency and quality of decisions made in the child protection system.

SDM helps to inform decisions about:

  • if a report should be made the Child Protection Helpline
  • whether DCJ should investigate a report
  • whether a child is safe
  • if DCJ needs to keep working with a family what strengths a family has.

SDM forms the basis of the Mandatory Reporter Guide, Screening Assessment, Safety Assessment, Risk Assessment, Family’s Strengths and Needs.

Evident Change, a not-for-profit organisation, owns all the intellectual property rights for SDM. DCJ has partnered with Evident Change to review the existing tools to make improvements.

Who is Evident Change and why are they working with DCJ on this project?

Evident Change are the owners and developers of the SDM system for child protection.

When DCJ first introduced SDM it partnered with Evident Change to design the NSW approach. For this reason and because they are a well-established not-for-profit organisation which provides expert child protection research, evaluation and design services internationally, DCJ decided to partner with them again to review and update the current SDM tools.

How does Better Decisions support Family is Culture?

The 2019 Family is Culture report (FIC) generated important lessons about assessment processes with Aboriginal families and recommendations about how improvements can be made.

FIC recommendations being considered as part of the Better Decisions project include recommendations:  30, 49, 54, 56 and 61. Visit the Family is Culture webpage to learn more.

DCJ is also implementing other changes from the FIC report throughout 2023.

How does Better Decisions support Closing the Gap?

Better Decisions supports the broader government priority to Close the Gap represented by Aboriginal overrepresentation in the child protection system by providing culturally safe and equitable assessment tools, and practice that recognises the strengths and protections in Aboriginal culture.

Will this make the system fairer for Aboriginal children and families?

A key priority of this work is for the SDM assessments to be culturally equitable and better assess protectiveness and safety that culture provides. This has been done by consulting closely and regularly with Aboriginal communities, internal and external stakeholders– including Aboriginal young people, incorporating the learnings from the Family is Culture Review and subsequent legislative change, and embedding the DCJ Aboriginal Case Management Policy and family-led decision making into assessment practice.

Last updated:

28 Aug 2023