New Intake Assessment to Consider Bias in Decision Making

New Intake Assessment to Consider Bias in Decision Making

December 9, 2020 | NCCD

Group of tweens in park

A new project will help a longtime partner better address one of the most difficult decisions a child welfare worker must make. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has asked Evident Change to develop an intake assessment tool, which is used to determine if a report of child abuse or neglect should be screened in for investigation by child protective services (CPS). Some families need support from the child welfare system to keep their children safe; yet, for other families, system involvement can be detrimental.

A new partner will also join this collaboration: ideas42 is a nonprofit that uses insights from behavioral science to reduce biased decision making. While developing the new intake assessment tool, Evident Change and MDHHS will consider information provided by ideas42 regarding bias in decision making and how it leads to disproportionality in the child welfare system.

MDHHS implemented the Structured Decision Making® (SDM) system for child welfare nearly 30 years ago, becoming one of the first jurisdictions to do so. However, JooYeun Chang, director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency, is looking to the future. She recently held community listening sessions, where she described her vision—based in the community—and her desire to rethink how the agency serves families. While child safety is the highest priority at MDHHS, children are best served with their families and within their communities. The community will be involved in the agency’s intake assessment work through an advisory committee comprising agency stakeholders, mandated reporters, and other community members. This committee will have a crucial role in the intake assessment development process.

The new assessment will help MDHHS Centralized Intake specialists decide if a report of child abuse or neglect meets the statutory requirements necessary to be screened in for a CPS investigation and, if so, how quickly local offices should respond to the report. While CRC and MDHHS develop and implement the new intake tool, ideas42 will help them understand if behavioral biases exist within Centralized Intake practices. They will also provide behavioral design support to reduce possible bias in the intake process.

Evident Change staff look forward to collaborating with both old partners and new to bring a new assessment tool to Michigan’s child welfare workers.