The CANS is a structured assessment instrument developed by John S. Lyons, Ph.D. with the University of Chicago (Chapin Hall) to assist in the planning and management of services to children and adolescents and their families. The CANS provides numerical ratings of various items, organized in a set of dimensions, or domains. These ratings are indicators of the presence and urgency/prominence of specific needs and strengths. Use of the CANS ensures a strength based assessment which focuses on enhancing communication among service providers and with families.
The laws and policies governing the Virginia Children’s Services Act (CSA) require a uniform assessment instrument to be used with all children and families receiving services funded through the CSA. In 2008, the State Executive Council chose the Virginia Version of the CANS to serve this purpose. As of 2017, the Virginia CANS consists of two assessments; the Standard CANS and the DSS-Enhanced CANS. Each has two age versions, one for children ages Birth to Four and the second for use with children and youth ages 5-21. To learn about each version, see the Item and Rating Definitions / Scoring Sheets. (The Virginia Department of Social Services also requires that all children in foster care, not only those receiving CSA-funded services, be assessed with the CANS.)
The Office of Children’s Services operates a secure software platform, CANVaS 2.0, for the use of all CSA programs across the Commonwealth. Only certified users may complete and enter assessments into CANVaS 2.0.
In addition to service planning, the CANS may be used to measure progress and identify most commonly occurring needs and strengths at the individual and system levels. Reports are available on CANVaS 2.0 which can assist users in monitoring progress over time of children on the CANS items at both individual, local and state levels.