Oregon Scraps AI Tool Used In Child Welfare System

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Oregon’s Department of Human Services will abolish the AI tool used by child welfare officials to decide which families are being investigated by social workers.

The algorithm would be replaced by its new program, called the Structured Decision Making model.

The agency plans to stop using the technology by the end of June to reduce disparities.

According to a department spokesman, Jake Sunderland, the existing algorithm would “no longer be necessary” because it could not be used with the state’s current screening process. He explained that the new model is in line with many other child welfare jurisdictions across the country.

The decision to scrap the tool comes weeks after an Associated Press report on a separate but similar AI tool used by Pennsylvania was found to have flagged a disproportionate number of black children for “mandatory” neglect investigations when it first was in place.

After the report was published, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, contacted the department.

“Making decisions about what should happen to children and families is far too important a task to give untested algorithms. I’m glad the Oregon Department of Human Services is taking the concerns I raised about racial bias seriously and is pausing the use of its screening tool,” Wyden said in a statement.

The sources for this piece include an article in NPR.

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