Standards for public agencies

2020 Edition

Youth Psychosocial Services (PA-YPS) 4: Intake and Assessment

The agency’s intake and assessment practices ensure that youth receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.
2020 Edition




Youth participating in Psychosocial Services receive community based services that facilitate childhood development and resiliency using a holistic approach that improves family functioning and increases child well-being and safety.
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)
  • Written intake materials
  • Community resource and referral list
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Youth served
  • Review case records


PA-YPS 4.01

The agency defines in writing:
  1. eligibility criteria, including age, developmental stage, and custodial status;
  2. scope of services and supports, special areas of expertise, and range of behavioral/emotional concerns addressed;
  3. opportunities for active family participation and support; and
  4. opportunities for active participation in community activities.


PA-YPS 4.02

Youth and primary caregivers 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-YPS 4.03

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 youth cannot be served or cannot be served promptly.


When it is not possible to directly connect youth to services, documentation of the reason why should be provided in the case record, for example, when youth are moved by the state.


Vulnerable populations, such as youth that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ), are at high risk of violence and harassment. The agency should ensure these youth are safe, welcomed by staff, and are treated with respect. For example, providing intake forms that allow youth to self-identify their gender as well as their first name and preferred pronouns can support that effort.
Examples: Agencies can respond to identified suicide risk by connecting youth to more intensive services; facilitating the development of a safety and/or crisis plan; or contacting emergency responders, 24-hour mobile crisis teams, emergency crisis intervention services, crisis stabilization, or 24-hour crisis hotlines, as appropriate.


PA-YPS 4.04

Youth 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 youth; and
  3. focused on information pertinent for meeting service requests and objectives. 


Youth who have been the victims of human-trafficking will oftentimes have severe deficiencies in their educational, emotional, and physical development in addition to any serious emotional disturbance or behavioral issues they may be struggling with. If at any time during the assessment it becomes apparent that the youth has been a victim of human trafficking, particular attention should be placed in those areas.


PA-YPS 4.05

Youth are assessed for:
  1. a history and presence of emotional and behavioral problems, substance use and other health conditions; 
  2. educational status, including enrollment in early childhood education or school; 
  3. developmental history;
  4. traumatic experiences and trauma-related symptomatology;
  5. past or present connection to the juvenile justice system;
  6. medical history, including past medication prescriptions and efficacy; 
  7. life skills and community support; and
  8. resource needs of the family/primary caregiver. 


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.