Evaluation of Michigan’s Foster Care Structured Decision Making Case Management System

Michigan expanded SDM® into foster care in 1997 to increase the consistency of decision making and help ensure compliance with state and federal regulations regarding service provision, reunification, and permanency planning. Foster care SDM combined structured assessments of family needs and strengths, barriers to reunification faced by each family, compliance with treatment visitation plans, and federal requirements regarding permanency into a simple yet comprehensive guide for workers. An evaluation conducted in 2000 assessed pilot and comparison county performance during pre- and post-implementation periods. Cohorts of children placed in foster care were tracked for a 15-month follow-up period. During the pre-implementation period, comparison counties had a slightly better record of moving children to permanency than the pilot counties did. During the post-implementation period, however, the pilot counties moved a significantly higher proportion of children to permanency than the comparison counties, and the type of permanency established was not skewed in any particular direction.