Douglas County Decision Aide

In early 2017 researchers developed a prototype child welfare (maltreatment) predictive risk model for Douglas County, Colorado.  The Douglas County Decision Aide is a decision support tool designed to help triage incoming calls alleging child maltreatment and neglect.  The tool uses data from child welfare and public welfare eligibility systems.  The DCDA was implemented by Douglas County leadership as a year-long randomised controlled trial in February 2019, with results on the impact of the tool expected in mid-2020.


Cuccaro-Alamin, S., Foust, R., Vaithianathan, R., & Putnam-Hornstein, E. (2017). Risk assessment and decision making in child protective services: Predictive risk modeling in context. Children and Youth Services Review, 79, 291-298.

The authors, including Rhema Vaithianathan, review the literature and provide a context for predictive risk modelling in the current risk assessment paradigm in child protective services. They describe how predictive analytics or predictive risk modelling using linked administrative data may provide a useful complement to current approaches.

Vaithianathan, R., Jiang, N., Maloney, T., Nand, P., & Putnam-Hornstein, E. (2017). Develping predictive risk models to support child maltreatment hotline screening decisions: Allegheny County methodology and implementation. Auckland: Centre for Social Data Analytics.

This methodology document traces the development and implementation of the Allegheny Family Screening Tool (AFST), a child welfare predictive risk-modelling tool built by a research team led by Rhema Vaithianathan. The AFST is intended to support call screening of child maltreatment referrals by Allegheny County Department of Human Services.  The methodology document includes an overview of existing practice, methodology and performance metrics of the model and details of the external validation and next steps for the model rebuild.

Chouldechova, A., Putnam-Hornstein, E., Benavides-Prado, D., Fialko, O., & Vaithianathan, R. (2018, January). A case study of algorithm-assisted decision making in child maltreatment hotline screening decisions. In Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency (pp. 134-148).

Diana Bendavides-Prado, Rhema Vaithianathan, Oleksandr Fialko (CSDA research fellow 2017-2018), Alexandra Chouldechova and Emily Putnam-Hornstein describe their work on developing, validating, fairness auditing, and deploying a risk prediction model in Allegheny County, PA, USA. They discuss the results of their analysis to-date and highlight critical problems and data bias issues that present challenges for model evaluation and deployment.

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Quick facts

Location: Douglas County - CO, United States

Partner/s: Douglas County Department of Human Services, Children’s Data Network (University of Southern California)

Timeframe: 2017-2020