2022 Edition

Domestic Violence Services (CA-DV) 4: Intake, Assessment, and Safety Planning

The organization ensures survivors receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services and works with survivors to develop individualized safety plans.


Viewing: CA-DV 4 - Intake, Assessment, and Safety Planning



Individuals who receive Domestic Violence Services gain a sense of empowerment, improve their well-being, and increase their ability to live safely and independently.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • In a few rare instances, urgent needs were not prioritized; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Culturally responsive assessments are the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Urgent needs are often not prioritized; or 
  • Services are frequently not initiated in a timely manner; or
  • Applicants are not receiving referrals, as appropriate; or 
  • Assessment and reassessment timeframes are often missed; or
  • Assessments are sometimes not sufficiently individualized; 
  • Culturally responsive assessments are not the norm, and this is not being addressed in supervision or training; or
  • Several client records are missing important information; or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • Intake or assessment is done by another organization or referral source and no documentation and/or summary of required information is present in case record. 
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
  • There are no written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.  
Self-Study EvidenceOn-Site EvidenceOn-Site Activities
  • Screening and intake procedures
  • Safety assessment procedures
  • Copy of safety assessment tool(s)
  • Safety planning procedures
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Procedures for protecting the safety of survivors when perpetrators are involved in services, if applicable
  • Community resource and referral list
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Survivors
  • Review case records


CA-DV 4.01

Survivors are screened and informed about:
  1. how well their request matches the organization's services; and
  2. what services will be available and when.
NA Another organization is responsible for screening, as defined in a contract.

Fundamental Practice

CA-DV 4.02

Prompt, responsive intake practices:
  1. gather information necessary to identify critical service needs and/or determine when a more intensive service is necessary;
  2. give priority to urgent needs, emergency situations, and individuals at greatest risk; 
  3. support timely initiation of services; and
  4. provide referral to appropriate resources when individuals cannot be served or cannot be served promptly.

Fundamental Practice

CA-DV 4.03

Within 24 hours or the first working day after initiation of services, survivors participate in an initial assessment of:
  1. immediate needs, including medical and dental care, legal assistance, food, shelter, and clothing; and
  2. safety and risk factors for the survivor, the survivor’s children, and any other involved family members.

Fundamental Practice

CA-DV 4.04

Safety planning helps the survivor assess short- and long-term physical and emotional risks and develop a comprehensive, detailed safety plan that:
  1. reflects the survivor’s particular needs, goals, strengths, risks, and circumstances;
  2. identifies and builds upon available and realistic options and resources; 
  3. prepares the survivor to promote safety in various places, circumstances, and situations, including preparing for immediate escape when necessary;
  4. responds to the needs of children, as appropriate; and
  5. is regularly re-evaluated to ensure that it continues to meet the survivor’s needs.


Safety planning must be conducted regardless of whether the survivor has left the perpetrator, is in the process of leaving the perpetrator, or will remain involved with the perpetrator. Plans for immediate escape should identify safe places to go in an emergency, safe contacts, and items to take when leaving.


CA-DV 4.05

Survivors participate in an individualized, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment that is:
  1. completed within established timeframes; 
  2. updated as needed based on the needs of persons served; and
  3. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives.


CA-DV 4.06

Comprehensive assessments:
  1. identify strengths;
  2. include a description of the presenting problem, any history of violence, and any other related risks; and
  3. evaluate the impact of the problem on children, as applicable, and their need for assistance.


The Assessment Matrix - Private, Public, Canadian, Network determines which level of assessment is required for COA’s Service Sections. The assessment elements of the Matrix can be tailored according to the needs of specific individuals or service design.

Fundamental Practice

CA-DV 4.07

Survivors who wish to include or involve perpetrators in services are helped to:
  1. explore their motivation and intent for involving the perpetrator; and 
  2. evaluate the risks involved.


This standard does not require organizations to involve perpetrators in services. If perpetrators are involved in services the organization should have procedures to protect the safety and well-being of survivors and their children, and the survivor’s safety plan should address issues specific to perpetrator involvement. COA cautions against engaging survivors and perpetrators in services requiring cooperative participation (e.g., couples counselling) due to the potential for danger, as well as the power disparities between perpetrators and survivors.