SDM® Model in Adult Protection

Adult protection is a growing service area, where research-based assessment instruments can help agencies make the best use of limited resources to promote the safety of older adults and adults with disabilities. The Structured Decision Making® (SDM) model for adult protection services assists agencies and workers in making better decisions for and with vulnerable adults. This evidence- and research-based system identifies the key points in the life of an adult protective services (APS) case and uses structured assessments to improve the consistency and validity of each decision. The SDM model for adult protection seeks to reduce subsequent harm to vulnerable adults and to improve the delivery of appropriate services through four assessments:

  • Intake assessment: This assessment has screening and response priority components. The screening section helps adult protection hotline workers determine if the current report requires an APS investigation response. The response priority section helps workers determine how swiftly an investigation must be initiated for those reports accepted for investigation.
  • Safety assessment: The assessment helps workers at all points in a case determine if a vulnerable adult is safe in his/her current situation. If threats to the client’s safety are identified, the assessment guides the worker to engage the client (and any caregivers who may be present) in a safety planning process that seeks to contain the threats while respecting the vulnerable adult’s right to final decision making and self-determination.
  • Risk assessment: This actuarial assessment estimates the likelihood of future harm to vulnerable adults, and assists investigation workers in determining which cases should be recommended to receive ongoing services, if the agency provides long-term case management.
  • Strengths and needs assessment: The SNA informs case planning by structuring the worker’s assessment of the vulnerable adult’s strengths and needs and those of a primary caregiver (if applicable) across a common set of domains of functioning. For the case plan, priority areas of need are chosen as the focus of efforts to improve the vulnerable adult’s long-term safety.

For more information about SDM assessments for adult protection, please contact us or review the research documents in our resources library. To learn about the success of the APS SDM model in Minnesota, read this resource.