Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)

The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) is a functional assessment tool developed to support decision-making, including treatment planning, facilitating quality improvement initiatives, and monitoring the outcomes of services. The tool collects information in a consistent manner and improves communication between those providing services and families receiving services. The CANS reviews the strengths and needs of a child/youth considering past behavior but focuses on the current needs to help the child/youth and family. The CANS has different sections addressing various items about the child/youth and family’s life.

Decision-Making: The CANS provides the child/youth’s family and providers with information on what are their needs and strengths to help inform the treatment planning process as related to the Partnership Plan for Wellness. Since the tool is used over time, it is useful in informing decisions on transition needs to higher or lower level of care. The CANS helps to create a shared vision or common goal as it provides data on how or why a decision was made.

Collaboration: The CANS is a communication tool that aids collaboration, such as in collaborative treatment planning, across all systems the child/youth is involved by integrating data into one place, creating a common language.

Outcomes: The CANS can help the provider and family measure improvement towards goals and see how needs and strengths change. Data can be used to assess service strengths and gaps at the individual, program, and system levels.

The CANS was developed from a communication perspective to facilitate the linkage between the assessment process and the design of individualized treatment plans.
The six key principles guiding CANS are:
• Items impact service planning.
• The levels of each item translate immediately in action levels.
• It is about the child/youth not about the service.
• Always consider cultural and developmental contexts before establishing action levels.
• It is about the ‘what’ not about the ‘why’.
• There is a 30-day window for ratings unless otherwise specified but this is to keep the ratings relevant to the child/youth’s present circumstances.

The CANS is NOT a self-report questionnaire filled out by youth or family. The CANS is typically completed interview style with a provider who is certified and trained to use the tool. Providers are encouraged to introduce the CANS early in the assessment process and complete the CANS together or discuss results during collaborative treatment planning with the family.