Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI)

The Youth Assessment Screening Instrument (YASI) measures a youth’s level of risk, needs, responsivity factors and strengths to guide early decision-making and assignment of case resources, as well as assist in the development of targeted case plans. The YASI looks to identify both the dynamic (changeable) and static (unchangeable) risk factors of youth to help professionals manage their caseloads and better structure and target services to youth with higher needs.

The YASI is an instrument specially designed for youth, and these 10 domains were selected for assessment due to many years of research on the predictors of delinquent behavior. The YASI focuses on the factors that are most critical to promoting positive outcomes for youth. The information collected during assessment guides the creation of a case plan tailored to each youth’s identified needs and strengths. The entire assessment and case planning process is informed by motivational interviewing, and is designed to engage youth, provide them a sense of ownership over their case plan, and match supervision and intervention strategies with the youth’s levels of risk and motivation.

Use of an assessment tool helps us be more targeted and effective

  • Research on the use of validated assessments in youth justice has grown significantly in the last decade. Assessment tools are often described as the foundation of evidence-based practice.
  • We do not want to intervene more or less than is necessary. A validated assessment tool helps us match youth with the most effective level and type of supervision and services.
  • Assessment tools assist jurisdictions with increasing the efficient use of resources, improving outcomes for youth and families, and increasing community safety.
  • Research shows that youth who are scored as low risk by a validated assessment and are diverted from the YJ system recidivate at lower rates than comparable youth whose cases are formally processed through the court system. (Wilson & Hoge, 2012).

Use of an assessment tool informs and supports professional decision-making

  • A risk, needs, and strengths assessment tool informs and supports professional decision-making; it does not replace it.
  • Use of a tool should not create a lot of additional work. In the long run, it should reduce caseloads by screening out youth who will not benefit from intervention, and help workers do their jobs more efficiently with youth and families who do by identifying areas to focus on to promote positive behavioral change.
  • Use of an assessment tool provides consistency across the state
  • Use of a statewide tool standardizes data collection on youth referred to the YJ system and provides a common measure of the effectiveness of the interventions used.
  • Use of a statewide tool provides a common language across counties and stakeholder groups.

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Incorporating the YASI in county practice

To complete a YASI, an interview is conducted with youth to gather sufficient information to answer the questions for the instrument using both a semi-structured interview with the youth and collateral contacts. It is best practice to interview both the youth and the family and to secure collateral contact information. Other collateral information can come from the school, the family, or other resources that the youth or family identifies. Releases of information should be obtained before speaking with any collateral contacts.

With few exceptions, all youth (age 10 and older) will have a prescreen prior to a petition being filed and all youth brought before Juvenile Court will have a full assessment prior to the youth being placed on supervision. The YASI report will serve as a guide for recommendations for the dispositional report to the Court. All youth placed on supervision will assist their case worker to develop a case plan informed by the results of their assessment.

Interview Practice Guidance

The assessment portion of the YASI is rooted in the principles of Motivational Interviewing, so workers should not simply read YASI questions to a youth and record their answers. Instead, engage the youth in conversation encompassing the domains assessed in the YASI, and take notes sufficient to answer its questions once all the information is collected. Administration Guides and other materials can help a worker ensure they are covering all domains during the interview.

  • Whenever possible, ensure the interview with the youth takes place in a comfortable setting.
  • Check in with the youth and provide opportunities for questions.
  • Encourage the youth to correct you if you make an inaccurate statement.
  • The administration of the assessment is most effective when Motivational Interviewing Methods (OARS) techniques are utilized:
    • Open-ended questions
    • Affirmations
    • Reflections
    • Summarization
  • Assessments that consist of 5-10 minutes of engagement, time for the assessment, and 5-10 minutes for closing the conversation are most effective.
    • Questions for engagement are open questions that invite the person to share their perspectives, presenting concerns, general experiences/views, and information about themselves.
    • Questions for closing the conversation are open questions that target change. Ask about the person’s motivation or reasons for changing behavior, perceived importance for change, willingness or readiness to change, how change could happen, or possible next steps.