Team Decision Making® (TDM™) Model

For nearly 30 years, the Team Decision Making® (TDM™ ) approach has led to inclusive, effective safety planning for children and young people. Evident Change is pleased to offer implementation support and training on the TDM™ model, a collaborative approach to child safety planning.

The TDM model brings together the important people in a child’s life when a safety threat suggests a child may need to be separated from parents. Family, friends, spiritual leaders, service providers, community members, child welfare staff, and, whenever possible, the child or young person take part in an immediate, facilitated conversation to determine how best to ensure a child’s safety, whether at home or by temporarily separating children from caregivers. The TDM model is also used for decision making about placement changes for children already in care.

The TDM approach has been implemented in over a dozen states and has remained strong for nearly 30 years. Because information from every meeting is collected and reported, numerous studies indicate positive family outcomes and significant system improvement, including safe reduction of entries, fewer reentries, earlier safe reunification with parents or relatives, reduced congregate care placements, and increased kinship care placements. Due to its “promising research evidence” and high relevance to child welfare work, the TDM model was recently added to the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare. Since then, results of the first randomized controlled trial confirmed that TDM meetings are beneficial to families and workers.

The values underlying the TDM model align with child welfare best practices like the Structured Decision Making® (SDM) assessment model and safety-organized practice. For example:

  • Partnerships with grassroots organizations bring communities of color to the table;
  • The TDM model creates potential to impact racial disparities in removal decisions and to create long-term safety nets for families within their own communities;
  • The engagement of extended families, including paternal relatives, enhances the use of kinship care;
  • Ensuring a place at the table for teens addresses the longstanding problem of foster youth feeling ignored in their own life decisions;
  • The use of experienced child welfare staff as facilitators ensures a thorough, fair, and consistent process that is respectful and sensitive to families and other participants; and
  • When practiced in combination with other family engagement-focused conferences used to create case plans, assess progress, or reduce level of care, the TDM approach provides a powerful foundation that sets the tone for a more positive parent-agency relationship and a more efficient process as the case proceeds.

Learn more about the TDM model here, or contact Heather Meitner, Child Welfare Practice and Team Decision Making Manager.