In order for any service or program to be effective, children who can benefit from the services provided must be enrolled. An obvious example is that programs providing treatment for children who have been physically abused should enroll children who have a history of physical abuse. Conversely, the children for whom a program’s services may be detrimental need to be excluded. For example, enrolling a child who has only minor adjustment problems into a program with youth who have serious drug problems and delinquency issues could be detrimental to that child (Dishion, McCord, & Poulin, 1999).
The appropriateness of the youth entering a service or program is based upon the fit between the youth’s needs and the problems a program targets (e.g., youth with drug problems should attend a program that targets substance abuse). Youth needs are measured using the Massachusetts Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment. This measure is administered by the youth’s DCFS caseworker. The CANS is designed to assess a wide range of risk and protective factors in child welfare settings with participants between 5-20 years old. The areas covered by this assessment include: life functioning, school, behavioral/emotional needs, risk behaviors, strengths and caregiver resources/needs. The CANS results are compared to the treatment programs stated treatment goals and the DCFS contract type to assess appropriate fit of youth to programs. Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrate how this information is conveyed to providers on the evaluation website.
Figure 1: CANS Domain Scores
Figure 2: Individual CANS Item Scores