2022 Edition

Youth Custody Services (CA-YCS) 3: Intake and Assessment

The organization’s intake and assessment practices ensure that youth receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.


It is likely that youth will have been screened and assessed elsewhere before arriving at the organization. However, the organization should still take steps to further evaluate youth after referral. At minimum, the organization should review the results of previous screenings and assessments to ensure they meet COA’s standards, and conduct additional assessments if those done previously are insufficient.




Youth Custody Services promote public safety by providing youth with a supportive, structured setting that helps them address their needs and develop the attitudes and skills needed to make responsible choices, avoid negative behaviours, and become productive, connected, and law-abiding citizens.
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
  • Assessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Evidence of collaboration with relevant parties
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth served and their families
  • Review case records

Fundamental Practice

CA-YCS 3.01

To promote safety and support timely initiation of services, the organization:
  1. implements prompt, systematic, and responsive screening practices that facilitate the identification of urgent risks and needs related to health, mental health, and safety, including suicidality, substance use, medication needs, and emergency medical conditions;
  2. conducts screenings within 24 hours of admission;
  3. does not leave youth unsupervised until they have been screened;
  4. promptly provides or arranges for specialized assessments when initial screenings reveal urgent risks and needs;
  5. determines whether youth are appropriate for the program; and
  6. notifies referral sources if youth cannot be served, or cannot be served promptly.


CA-YCS 3.02

Youth participate in an individualized, trauma-informed, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment that is:
  1. completed within established timeframes;
  2. updated as needed based on youths’ risks and needs; 
  3. focused on information pertinent for meeting service objectives; and
  4. supplemented with information provided by the referral source, collaborating providers, and/or family members, when appropriate.
NA The organization provides only remand services.
Note: Timeframes for conducting health and mental health assessments are specified in CA-YCS 7.01 and CA-YCS 8.01.


CA-YCS 3.03

Assessments are conducted in a standardized manner using valid and reliable tools if available, and address risks, needs, and strengths related to:
  1. health;
  2. mental health;
  3. substance use;
  4. education;
  5. vocation;
  6. social skills and behaviour; and
  7. family functioning and dynamics.


Organizations that do not have the resources to comprehensively assess all youth in all of the listed areas should conduct systematic service need screenings to determine when youth are in need of more in-depth assessments. However, this screening for ongoing service needs should be distinct from the emergent risk screening described in CA-YCS 3.01. Special attention should be paid to any concerns identified in previous screenings and assessments and further evaluation should be conducted if necessary.


Personnel that conduct assessments should be aware of the indicators of a potential trafficking victim, including, but not limited to, evidence of mental, physical, or sexual abuse; physical exhaustion; working long hours; living with employer or many people in confined area; unclear family relationships; heightened sense of fear or distrust of authority; presence of older male boyfriend or pimp; loyalty or positive feelings towards an abuser; inability or fear of making eye contact; chronic running away or homelessness; possession of excess amounts of cash or hotel keys; and inability to provide a local address or information about parents. Several tools are available to help identify a potential victim of trafficking and determine next steps toward an appropriate course of treatment. Examples of these tools include, but are not limited to, the Rapid Screening Tool for Child Trafficking and the Comprehensive Screening and Safety Tool for Child Trafficking.


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.
NA The organization provides only remand services.


CA-YCS 3.04

The organization collaborates with relevant parties,such as the probation officer, the court, or another party responsible for youth justice, to encourage placement of youth into programs that:
  1. address their risks and needs in the least restrictive environment necessary; and
  2. are close to their families and communities, to the extent possible.


Although the organization may not control referral and placement decisions, it should take steps to encourage appropriate placement decisions, to the extent possible. This will likely occur on a macro-level and address placements and referrals generally, but may also occur in relation to individual cases.
NA The organization provides only remand services.


CA-YCS 3.05

Organizations that provide remand services collaborate with relevant parties, such as the probation officer, the court, or another party responsible for youth justice, to:
  1. encourage placement of youth into the least restrictive environment necessary;
  2. promote a comprehensive, coordinated approach to serving youth; and
  3. arrange for the delivery of needed services the organization does not provide, to the extent possible and appropriate.
NA The organization does not provide remand services.