Risk assessment with actuarial and clinical methods: Measurement and evidence-based practice

Natasha Mendoza, Roderick A. Rose, Jennifer M. Geiger, Scottye J. Cash

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    12 Scopus citations


    Child welfare agencies have adopted assessment tools and instruments to inform the level of risk and guide the agency's level of intervention with the family. Actuarial assessments may be more uniform but inflexible with respect to practice wisdom whereas clinical or consensus-based assessments are more comprehensive and intuitive but lack objectivity. The purpose of the current study is to compare clinical and actuarial methods of risk assessment used by child welfare workers to make decisions about substantiation and services. The current study examined the (1) association between clinical and actuarial dimensions, (2) association between actuarial dimensions and outcomes, (3) association between clinical dimensions and outcomes, (4) caseworker primary use of actuarial dimensions, and (5) caseworker supplementary use of actuarial dimensions. Findings indicated that the actuarial may not be solely predictive of agency intensity with respect to case decision and service provision. Our findings suggest that dual-measurement does inform intensity, and we speculate from these findings that the measures may be involved with decision-making in a complex way. This study may be best viewed as a means by which researchers begin to parse how decisions are made; with this information, instruments may be better tailored to facilitate clinical, critical thought.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
    StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


    • Actuarial assessment
    • Child welfare
    • Consensus-based assessment
    • Risk assessment

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
    • Developmental and Educational Psychology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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