Assessment and Screening


Assessment and screening are among the first steps in treating adolescents in at-risk situations, including runaway and homeless youth. When a young person comes to you for help, you need to know:  Does the young person suffer from mental health problems? Does he or she abuse drugs or alcohol? How well does the youth make everyday decisions? In order to answer these questions and to continually evaluate program effectiveness, many social services agencies use already existing screening and assessment tools or design their own.

Screening = Briefly estimate severity of problem
Determine need for further assessment

Assessment = Identify strengths and needs
Measure baseline and changes over time
Accurately identify youth in need of treatment

To help youth-service professionals choose the appropriate tools for their agencies and clients, NCFY has compiled a list of screening and assessment tools that are relatively brief and easy to administer. Designed specifically for youth ages 14 to 21, each tool measures one (or more) of three categories relevant to runaway and homeless youth programs: mental healthsubstance abuse, and independent living skills.

The chart below lists each tool along with the age range for which it was designed, the time it takes to administer the test, and whether staff members need special training to use the test. It also includes information on where to get each tool and whether or not it is available free of cost.

In addition, the chart provides links to references and other information about each tool. Based on a review of the literature, the screening and assessment tools are groups in two categories:

  1. Mental health and substance abuse tools with accepted reliability and validity, and independent living skills tools that have been used successfully by youth-serving agencies; and
  2. Tools that are in survey form.

How can you tell if a specific tool is appropriate for your organization? That depends on a number of variables related to your program, your staff, the type of counseling you provide, the population of young people you serve, and so on.  This list is intended to give you choices that may assist you in operating and evaluating your program.

Table 1: Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Independent Living Skills

Table 2: Youth Development Surveys


The National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NCFY), which developed this list, welcomes your ideas about screening and assessment tools. If you would like to share your thoughts about instruments on the list or tell NCFY about instruments not listed here (including ones your program has developed), please click here.

For additional information, contact the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth, 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800, North Bethesda, MD 20852; (301) 608-8098; fax: (301) 608-8721; e-mail:; website:

9-5 pm Eastern