Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Group Living Services (PA-GLS) 4: Intake and Assessment

The agency's intake and assessment practices ensure that residents receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.


When the agency is working with an Indian family, tribal representatives or other tribal community members must be involved in the assessment process, as determined by the tribe and the family.
2020 Edition




Group Living Services allow individuals who need additional support to regain, maintain, and improve life skills and functioning in a safe, stable, community-based living arrangement.
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
  • Assessment and reassessment procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Community resource and referral list
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Residents
  • Review case records


PA-GLS 4.01

Residents are screened to determine whether they meet the program’s eligibility criteria, and are informed about:
  1. how well their request matches the agency's services;
  2. what service options and levels of care will be available and when;
  3. the effectiveness of treatment, when available; and
  4. opportunities for active family participation and support, and involvement in community activities.


Screenings will vary based on the program’s target population and services offered, and can include information to identify any of the following: trauma history, substance use conditions, mental illness, and/or individual’s risk of harm to self or others.


When agencies provide services under contract with a “no reject” provision the interdisciplinary team should carefully review admission decisions to ensure the agency is prepared to address any special needs or services the resident may require.
NA Another agency is responsible for screening, as defined in a contract.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 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 and emergency situations;
  3. support timely initiation of services; and
  4. provide placement on a waiting list or referral to appropriate resources when individuals cannot be served or cannot be served promptly.


PA-GLS 4.03

Residents participate in a comprehensive, individualized, trauma-informed, strengths-based, culturally and linguistically responsive assessment that is:
  1. completed within established timeframes; and
  2. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives.


Standardized and evidence-based assessment tools should be used to support structured and consistent decision-making.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 4.04

The assessment is conducted by clinical personnel, including a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, or other qualified mental health professional, as appropriate to the program model and population served, and addresses:
  1. behavioral and physical health;
  2. a trauma screen and, when appropriate, a trauma assessment;
  3. an evaluation of suicide risk, self-injury, neglect, exploitation, and violence towards others;
  4. family strengths, risks, and protective factors;
  5. community and social support, resources, and helping networks;
  6. environmental, religious or spiritual, and cultural factors;
  7. educational and vocational accomplishments;
  8. social skills, recreational activities, hobbies, strengths and special interests;
  9. factors related to successful group living;
  10. additional tests and assessments needed; and
  11. a summary of symptoms and diagnoses.


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.


Vulnerable populations, such as youth that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ), are at high risk of violence and harassment while in residential care. The agency should consider these factors to ensure these youth are safe and welcomed by staff.


Personnel that conduct evaluations should be aware of the indicators of a potential trafficking victim, including, but not limited to:
  1. evidence of mental, physical, or sexual abuse;
  2. physical exhaustion;
  3. working long hours;
  4. living with employer or many people in confined area;
  5. unclear family relationships;
  6. heightened sense of fear or distrust of authority;
  7. presence of older significant other or pimp;
  8. loyalty or positive feelings towards an abuser;
  9. inability or fear of making eye contact;
  10. chronic running away or homelessness;
  11. possession of excess amounts of cash or hotel keys; and
  12. 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.
Examples: Agencies serving young children can tailor the assessment process to meet the age and developmental level of the service population. Assessments may include an evaluation of factors that impact the child’s social and emotional well-being (e.g., family characteristics), an observation of the child’s behavior, and/or a thorough health and developmental history.

Examples: Factors that can impact group living success can include:
  1. possible reciprocal individual and group effects;
  2. the individual’s ability to adjust to a group;
  3. safety issues;
  4. previous placements; and
  5. trauma history.

Fundamental Practice

PA-GLS 4.05

When a resident’s assessment indicates a substance use condition, the agency records a thorough alcohol and drug use history, including an evaluation of the effects of alcohol and other drug use on the resident’s family, and:
  1. provides an appropriate level of service and detoxification, as necessary; or
  2. connects the resident and/or family members to appropriate services when the program does not serve individuals with substance use conditions.


PA-GLS 4.06

Reassessments are conducted as needed, including at specific milestones in the treatment process including:
  1. after significant treatment progress;
  2. after a lack of significant treatment progress;
  3. after new symptoms are identified;
  4. when significant behavioral changes are observed;
  5. when there are changes to a family situation or parental status;
  6. when significant environmental changes occur; or
  7. when a resident returns following an episode of running away.
Note: For more information regarding residents that return after an episode of running away, refer to PA-GLS 9.01 and PA-GLS 16.03.