Official Government Website

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS)

Teens reading books and looking at their phones

The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) is a communications tool that helps families tell their stories in a way that is used to identify unmet needs and areas of strength for the child and their unique family system.

The CANS looks at multiple areas of a child’s life, including:

  • Strengths (What does the youth do well?)
  • Life Functioning (How does the youth function at home and the community?)
  • Traumatic/Adverse Childhood Experiences (What events in the past may be currently impacting the youth?)
  • Culture (Is the youth’s culture a source of strength or are there any cultural issues that may be contributing to your child’s needs?)
  • Behavioral and Emotional Needs (Are there specific behaviors or emotional needs that require support or intervention?)
  • Risk Behaviors (Are there any issues that are a safety risk?)
  • Transition to Adulthood (Are there needed skills or resources?)

The CANS also helps families and providers discuss how the primary caregivers are feeling as they participate in the care and treatment of the child. The goal is to make sure any resources the family needs are identified and added to the treatment planning discussion.

The CANS tool is used for three specific purposes:

  • To identify unmet functional needs and areas of strength.
  • To assist with treatment planning.
  • As part of the independent assessment process for Medicaid.

Information shared during the CANS process is entered into an electronic system called the ICANS. The ICANS helps providers identify the strengths that will support a youth and family through treatment and the needs that will be supported by their treatment plan.

When the CANS is completed, providers can print a copy of the report to give the youth and family. They can also share the electronic file with other providers involved in the youth’s treatment to make sure that everyone is basing their treatment plans on the same information. This helps reduce the number of times the family has to tell their story.

All personal information shared during the CANS process is part of a protected health record. Before information is entered into the ICANS system, the family signs a consent form. If other providers need access to the ICANS file, the family signs a release of information before electronic access is granted.

Note to Providers: All providers who administer the CANS must be certified through the Praed Foundation using the CMH CANS course. Training may be accessed electronically through the Praed Foundation training site. Information about ICANS training and agency registration is available on the ICANS website.

ver: 3.0.0a | last updated: