The TCOM Team met in Chicago in January to kick off the New Year and review the work being done across the collaborative. As a result of this meeting we’ve produced our very first TCOM newsletter that highlights these efforts! *Keep an eye out for the release of our newsletter next week!*

One important discussion at our team meeting was the use of the TCOM Tools and the targeted audience.  While all derived from Communimetrics, there are clear distinctions in the focus of our tools as noted in their titles: Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS), Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA), Family Advocacy and Support Tool (FAST), and Crisis Assessment Tool (CAT). Most experienced users know the importance of appropriately using these tools to match the circumstance , target audience or population. Thus, the ANSA is most appropriately used with adults, the FAST with families, the CAT for crisis situations, and so on.

So, Why Do Age and Development Matter?

For providers working with individuals across the lifespan, the selection of the appropriate TCOM Tool can have particular significance.  Beyond the distinction between children, adults and families as the focus of care, there may be different age groups, developmental issues, or specific populations that should be kept in mind.  The CANS, for example, has versions targeted to specific age groups, for example, 0-4, 5-17, and even 18-24.  In some jurisdictions, the CANS covers ages 0-21 (sometimes up to 24) with specific age-related modules for children ages 0-5 and youth or young adults ages 16-24. A few examples of items that are specific to age ranges include PICA, Failure to Thrive (for young children) and Career Aspirations, Arrests, and Job Performance (for older youth).

Even items that are rooted in the same action are inherently different when considering the developmental difference between a young child and youth. Taken from the same CANS version, below are two items that reference a common behavior. For children between the ages of 3 and 6, the Flight Risk item specifically refers to behaviors that can be a precursor to behaviors and actions in that of an older child.


For youth 6 years and older, however, the Runaway item should be completed. This item expands upon the Flight Risk item to account for developmental differences and experiences of an older child or youth. Flight Risk focuses on behaviors of escaping and bolting, whereas Runaway focuses on whether or not youth are running away and the risks associated to where they are going.


In the version of the CANS where this particular item is used, a rating of 1, 2, or 3 would trigger the Runaway Module that provides additional information on the young person’s runaway behavior.

There are CANS versions specific to populations of youth, such as:  Commercially Sexually Exploited (CANS-CSE), and the Autism Spectrum Profile (CANS-ASP). Some items present in the CANS-CSE include Duration of Exploitation, Age at Onset, and Trauma Bonding/Stockholm Syndrome. In the CANS-ASP, you will find items such as Repetitive Behaviors, Speech Articulation, and Stereotyped Verbal Output.  Ultimately, we need to recognize the importance of matching the TCOM Tool to the audience in order to best capture the needs and strengths of the individual and family and develop the most appropriate strategies for care.

The Breadth and Depth of the Tools

The TCOM Tools cover the breadth needed to impact the largest range of the population. The tools are free to use and have been researched and proven to be a reliable and valid way to assess the needs and strengths of a wide range of the population. Yet the tools are limited, as you can see, by version-specific age ranges and populations. It is of utmost importance to recognize and pay attention to the specific tool you are using to assess the child/youth/adult/family or specialized population in order to have meaningful information that translates into identifying the most effective solutions.

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