Image is of 3 pages from the updated TCOM Reference guides as an example with dark olive green background

Keeping it Fresh: Updating Your Reference Guide

By: Lynn Steiner, MSW

Happy New Year! As we settle into another year, it’s amazing how quickly we fall back into the same routine, the familiar tasks and obligations, the repetitions. If you have been using the CANS, the FAST, the ANSA or the CAT Reference Guides for a while, you’ve come to know it well, both how it can be useful in assessment, service planning and evaluation, and how it can be frustrating (misspellings, anyone?).

Did you know that we sometimes re-visit our standard versions of the TCOM tools in order to replace outdated language, fix errors, update content and more? In recent months, we have updated our Standard Comprehensive versions of the CANS, ANSA and FAST (with the Early Childhood and CAT versions not far behind). Keep reading to learn about general and tool-specific updates and how you can access these new versions.

Why we do this

The use of the TCOM tools began with a small number of agencies and jurisdictions. Customization, one of the selling points of the tools, was present from the beginning and promoted meaningful use and local application of these tools. To maintain the integrity of the TCOM tools, we identified a core item set for the CANS, ANSA and now the FAST that captures the minimum information needed to understand an individual’s needs and strengths. We incorporated these core item sets into the standard comprehensive versions of each tool. Occasional reviews of these tools become necessary as our understanding of individuals and the world grows with experience.

Another incentive for the core item sets relates to the recent development of the TCOM Data Reservoir that provides us a place to receive and have available data from the TCOM tools that are used in  jurisdictions all over the world. See elsewhere on the blog for information about the Data Visualization Garden (a resource for report-sharing) and how to submit your jurisdiction’s TCOM data for inclusion in the TCOM Data Reservoir and how you and your system can benefit from participating in this collaborative effort.

What has changed

Our review and refresh of the TCOM tools try to balance standardization and customization. For all versions, you may notice the following updates:

  • Clear Praed branding and standard formatting
  • Gender-neutral language
  • Updated Action Level wording that is also incorporated into the items
  • Modules that follow their trigger item rather than appearing at the end of the document to better support learning
  • Minimizing the use of mild/moderate/severe for items along with updated descriptions for some items to help reinforce the use and intent of the Action Levels
  • Changing the Trauma exposure (aka Potentially Traumatic/Adverse Childhood Experiences) items from a 4-point rating scale to a 2-point rating scale (No/Yes) to better capture the exposure to trauma rather than its severity

While the newer versions of the Standard Comprehensive CANS and the ANSA may not seem so different content-wise, if you currently use a version of the FAST – Family Advocacy and Support Tool, – it will look VERY different. You might say it has been completely overhauled! In addition to the above changes, highlights to the new Standard Comprehensive FAST include:

  • The return of the Advocacy and Capacity sub-domain, with a new skills rating system (5-point rather than 4-point)
  • Separation of Needs and Strengths Family items that are grouped into their own sections and use the corresponding Action Levels that are aligned with the CANS and ANSA
  • Alignment of Caregiver and Child items to the ANSA and CANS respectively
  • Separation of child items by age group (rated if relevant): 0-5 and 6+
  • Modules that are triggered by a rating of ‘1,’ ‘2,’ or ‘3’ on specific Child or Caregiver items
  • A new Family item: Family Social Identity, and updates of other items
  • The addition of Supplemental Information for many items to provide helpful information for assessment

How this can benefit you

If you are currently using a version of the ANSA, CANS or FAST that’s at least a year old (or substantially older), you may want to take a look at the updated standard versions. We would be happy to work with you on updating your current version.

If you are thinking about adding another tool to your toolkit, take a look at the updated versions to see if any of them might fit the bill.

For questions, or if you want to talk to us about updating your older version to the newer one, please contact April Fernando at or Lynn Steiner at


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