Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities

 

 

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Assessment Tool

The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool is a multi-purpose instrument developed to support:

  • decision making, including Level of Need and service planning
  • to facilitate quality improvement initiatives
  • to allow for the monitoring of outcomes of services

The CANS tool assesses a child’s needs and strengths in different areas such as

  • school
  • trauma
  • mental health needs
  • risk behaviors

The CANS uses algorithms to provide three different results:

  • A mental health screen, to determine whether a child has mental health needs,
  • A Level of Need, to recommend a level of placement for a child based on the identified needs and strengths, and
  • A supplemental rate to be included in the foster care reimbursement

The CANS is intended to be a communication tool. You can use the CANS to facilitate communication and consensus within your treatment team by sharing the ratings with the team and ensuring that all members are in agreement with the assessment. Information about the needs and strengths of the child and the child’s family should be communicated with the team. Discussions about agreement on how the child’s needs and strengths are described provides the foundation for agreement about what approaches to take to address those needs and identify and build strengths.

Additional information about the CANS can be found in Administrative Code DCF Chapter 56.22

What is the information gathered in the CANS used for?

The CANS communicates the needs and strengths of the child and the family and is used across case practice to inform the child’s and family’s case. The information gathered in the CANS is used to:

  • Communicate information about the needs and strengths of the child and family
  • Assist with determining the child’s service needs and developing the child’s case plan
  • Determine a Level of Need for the child
  • Inform decisions regarding a placement at a Level of Care appropriate to meet the child’s Level of Need
  • Evaluate the match between the knowledge, skills, and abilities of an out-of-home care provider and the needs and strengths of the child
  • Assist in the development of services and supports needed for a specific child and out-of-home care provider to promote the stability of the placement
  • Provide a mental health screen to all children entering out-of-home care
  • Determine any supplemental payments, if a child is in foster care

Do caseworkers have to be trained to complete a CANS assessment?

Caseworkers who rate the CANS are required to be trained and certified in its use. In order to maintain certification, individuals are required to be re-certified on a yearly basis. 

How is the CANS assessment completed?

When completing the CANS, the caseworker must gather information through a review of the child’s case record, interviews, and discussions with the child’s team members. Whoever is completing the CANS is required to then share the results with the child’s team and incorporate the results into case planning for the child, family, and caregivers.

The CANS must be completed within the following timelines:

  • Within 30 days of a child’s placement in a foster home
  • Prior to a placement in a Group Home or Residential Care Center
  • Within 30 days of a new placement, but prior to a new placement in a higher Level of Care if the child is not already in a Group Home or Residential Care Center
  • Every six months thereafter when the child has been placed with the same provider

There are manuals, glossaries, and algorithms caseworkers should reference when completing the CANS assessment, which are listed below:

CANS Manuals

Caseworkers should reference the CANS Birth to 5 Manual when rating CANS items and completing the CANS assessment for children age birth up to their 5th birthday.

Caseworkers should reference the CANS 5 to 21 Manual when rating CANS items and completing the CANS assessment for children age 5 up to their 21st birthday.

CANS Glossaries

The CANS Glossary of Items explains some of the CANS items in further detail.

The CANS Item Level Additional Guidance provides additional explanation of some of the CANS items.

CANS Algorithms

The LON Algorithm: Birth to 5 and Foster Care Algorithm provides information about how the Supplemental Rate is calculated for children age birth up to their 5th birthday.

The LON Algorithm: 5-21 and Foster Care Algorithm provides information about how the Supplemental Rate is calculated for children age 5 up to their 21st birthday.

The Adoption Assistance Algorithm provides information about how the Supplemental Rate portion of Adoption Assistance is calculated.

The Subsidized Guardianship Algorithm provides information about how the Supplemental Rate portion of Subsidized Guardianship payments is calculated.

The Child/Youth Mental Health Screen Algorithm provides information about how the indicator for a mental health screen is calculated.

CANS Resources

There are many CANS resources that can provide more information about the CANS, which are listed below.

CANS Resources for Families

The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) letter to Foster Parents was issued by the Department in 2011 and describes the changes related to implementation of the CANS tool.

The Information for Families Regarding the Wisconsin Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Tool is a brochure for families that explains the CANS tool.

The Levels of Care: Foster Care Licensing brochure describes the different Levels of Care certification for foster parents.

CANS Resources for Agencies

Learn more about the CANS tool at the Praed Foundation.

The CANS Frequently Asked Questions provides information about some of the most frequently asked questions related to the CANS.

The Information Regarding the Wisconsin Comprehensive Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Tool is brochure that can be given to various professionals, such as child welfare agencies, schools, and therapist, to describe the CANS tool.

The Levels of Care: Foster Care Licensing brochure describes the different Levels of Care certification for foster parents.

CANS Training Webinars

The Department hosted a series of CANS training webinars on a variety of CANS topics. These webinars can used as a resource for new caseworkers or caseworkers who just need a CANS refresher.  The CANS webinars are listed below:

CANS Contact Information

For more information about the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool, please contact:

Out-of-Home Care Specialist
Bureau of Permanence and Out-of-Home Care
Division of Safety and Permanence
Telephone: (608) 422-6937
Fax: (608) 266-0260