Standards for private organizations

2020 Edition

Services for Unaccompanied Children (UC) 3: Initial Assessment

The organization conducts an initial assessment to ensure that children receive prompt and responsive access to appropriate services.
2020 Edition




Unaccompanied Children Services support youth safety and well-being, facilitate family involvement and provide necessary supports to children seeking physical and emotional safety and legal protection.
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
  • Initial assessment procedures
  • Eligibility criteria
  • Admission policy
No On-Site Evidence
  • Interviews may include:
    1. Program director
    2. Relevant personnel
    3. Children served
  • Review case records


UC 3.01

The program defines in writing and communicates in a language accessible to the child: 
  1. eligibility criteria including age, developmental stage, and special care needs;
  2. scope of services, special areas of expertise, and the range of conditions addressed;
  3. opportunities for family reunification and sponsorship efforts including collaboration with other ORR pre-approved providers and entities;
  4. rules, expectations, and rights aligned with ORR policy; and
  5. how the facility promotes living-unit compatibility based on age, interests, and group composition.


In regards to element (e), COA recognizes that organizations, particularly those that receive clients through referrals only, may have limited control of group composition. In these instances, the organization should identify the population(s) served, state how diverse service needs will be met, and include strategies for promoting living-unit compatibility when possible.


Element (e) will not apply to organizations only providing post-release services.

Fundamental Practice

UC 3.02

Prompt, responsive initial assessment practices: 
  1. gather information necessary to identify critical service needs and/or determine when a more intensive service is necessary;
  2. gather information on family members, as available;
  3. give priority to urgent needs and emergency situations including emergency health needs that require immediate medical care, mental health care, or medication;
  4. identify imminent safety concerns;
  5. support timely initiation of services; and
  6. ensure that referral sources are notified immediately if services cannot be provided or provided promptly.


Vulnerable populations, such as youth that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or gender non-conforming and those who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity (LGBTQ), are at higher risk for verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and assault. To ensure their safety, the program should create and maintain a respectful, safe and welcoming environment and provide equitable treatment throughout their duration in care.
Note: Timeframes for the initial intake screening should meet federal guidelines. Organizations should refer to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for further guidance.


UC 3.03

Organizations maintain an admission policy that includes: 
  1. steps and requirements for admission;
  2. prohibition of discriminatory selection processes; and
  3. reasons the program may decline or request transfers of referrals.


UC 3.04

The organization describes: 
  1. personal items children may bring with them, consistent with a physically and psychologically safe setting;
  2. items that are discouraged or prohibited; and
  3. any safety procedures the program follows or consequences that can result when prohibited items are brought to the program facility.


Regarding element (a), personal items may include: photos, books, cellphones, computers, or other electronics. 

Given the rise in information and communication technologies, it is important for organizations to specify in their admission materials what electronic devices are permitted and prohibited.
NA The organization provides post-release services only.