Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Juvenile Justice Residential Services (PA-JJR) 3: Intake and Assessment

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


Youth may have been screened and assessed elsewhere before arriving at the agency. However, the agency should still take steps to further evaluate youth after referral. At minimum, the agency 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.
2020 Edition




Juvenile Justice Residential 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 behaviors, and become productive, connected, and law-abiding citizens.
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 procedures
  • Copy of assessment tool(s)
  • Evidence of collaboration to encourage appropriate placement
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth served and their families
  • Review case records

Fundamental Practice

PA-JJR 3.01

To promote safety and support timely initiation of services, the agency:
  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.


When the agency discovers urgent risks and needs it is not equipped to address, it should advocate for transfer with the parties responsible for making placement decisions.


PA-JJR 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 agency provides only detention services.
Note: Timeframes for conducting health and mental health assessments are specified in PA-JJR 7.01 and PA-JJR 8.01.


PA-JJR 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 behavior; and
  7. family functioning and dynamics.


Agencies 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 PA-JJR 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 agency provides only detention services.


PA-JJR 3.04

The agency collaborates with relevant parties, such as the court, 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.


Agencies 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 agency provides only detention services.


PA-JJR 3.05

Agencies that provide detention services collaborate with relevant parties, such as the court, to:
  1. reduce the incidence of unnecessary detention;
  2. reduce the length of time youth are detained without services;
  3. encourage the placement of youth into the least restrictive environment necessary;
  4. encourage placement of youth into programs that are close to their families and communities, to the extent possible;
  5. promote a comprehensive, coordinated approach to serving youth; and
  6. arrange for the delivery of needed services the agency does not provide, to the extent possible and appropriate.


Placement into pre-adjudicatory detention should be based on risks related to safety and failure to appear, not needs. Agencies 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 agency does not provide detention services.