Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

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

The agency ensures survivors receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services and works with survivors to develop individualized safety plans.
2020 Edition




Individuals who receive Domestic Violence Services gain a sense of empowerment, improve their well-being, and increase their ability to live safely and independently.
Full Implementation, Outstanding Performance
A rating of (1) indicates that the agency's practices fully meet the standard and reflect a high level of capacity.  
  • All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, with rare or no exceptions: exceptions do not impact service quality or agency performance. 
Substantial Implementation, Good Performance
A rating of (2) indicates that an agency's infrastructure and practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement.
  • The majority of the standards requirements have been met and the basic framework required by the standard has been implemented. 
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality or agency performance.

Partial Implementation, Concerning Performance
A rating of (3) indicates that the agency's observed infrastructure and/or practices require significant improvement.  

  • The agency has not implemented the basic framework of the standard but instead has in place only part of this framework.  
  • Omissions or exceptions to the practices outlined in the standard occur regularly, or practices are implemented in a cursory or haphazard manner.  
  • Service quality or agency functioning may be compromised.  
  • Capacity is at a basic level.
Unsatisfactory Implementation or Performance
A rating of (4) indicates that implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all.  
  • The agency’s observed service delivery infrastructure and practices are weak or non-existent; or show signs of neglect, stagnation, or deterioration.
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

PA-DV 4.01

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

Fundamental Practice

PA-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

PA-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

PA-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.


For military families, safety planning should also address concerns related to deployments, duty assignments, or permanent change of station orders.

PA-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.

PA-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

PA-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 agencies to involve perpetrators in services. If perpetrators are involved in services the agency 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 counseling) due to the potential for danger, as well as the power disparities between perpetrators and survivors.