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Five Assessment Tools for Youth Social Workers

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Fin lives in California's Central Valley and is interested in social issues and creative writing.


Why a Social Worker and Why Youth?

One of the basic reasons people get into social work is that they want to help people. That sounds like a bit of a cliche, but when it comes down to it, that's basically what happens.

I am a student in a program and hoping to graduate with my MSW. I have spent most of my previous life as a librarian in the public sector and had experience in an academic setting. One of my more interesting positions was in the law library at a prison.

This brings me to the importance of the need to focus on working with the youth demographic in the profession. In my public library experience, I have had the chance to see adults who are struggling with employment issues, education, literary, and basic computer skills. Many are trying to find out how and where to apply for financial assistance because they are unable to maintain.

In correctional libraries, I saw how many of the patrons were from marginalized strata and how many inmates had a background that included abuse, foster care, poverty, and trauma. Were it not for those social ills that plagued their younger years, they would be leading normal lives.


The Tools We Will Look At

I have chosen five assessment tools used by many who work in the social work profession. Basically, these are used to measure a person's cognition, emotional state, ability to function, or problems. Assessment tools are useful for providing an overview of the client and a measure for determining what sorts of treatment or interventions to use.

I have chosen five that cover a diverse set of areas. Some of these tools you may be familiar with, and a few are possibly going to be new to you. If you work outside of the United States—or even California—you may disagree about the veracity of these tests or even the need to acknowledge them.

Please remember this is not a definitive sample, but rather my sharing some measurements that I have found useful or seen used in the profession.


The Tools

Each of the listed tools will be briefly described and will include a link to download the measure and a video of the measure being implemented where applicable. (All items are believed to be in the public domain). In many cases, videos of the assessments being practiced are not available. In this case, videos on relevant topics were presented.

  1. Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment (ACLSA)
  2. Communication Scale (ages 12–18)
  3. Problem-Oriented Screening Instrument for Teenagers (POSIT)
  4. Life Events Checklist
  5. Commercial Sexual Exploitation Identification Tool (CSE-IT)
The Person in Environment (PIE) Model

The Person in Environment (PIE) Model

Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment (ACLSA)

The Ansell-Casey Life Skills Assessment is a self-administered test that measures a youth's ability to function socially and practice safe life skills. Does the youth know how to be polite to others or how to store food so it doesn't go bad? Other concerns such as awareness of drug and alcohol problems are addressed.

It begins with the basic demographics, which include gender, ethnicity, age, and living situation.

It's useful in determining a young person's cognitive ability as well as to see if there are any areas that could be of focus in areas of education. For example, if someone reports that they never get their work done on time, they may benefit from a time management program. They may also be in need of other remedies.

A Life Skills Assessment Test: The Milwaukee Evaluation of Daily Living Skills

Casey Family Programs

Erickson's Stages of Development

Erickson's Stages of Development

Communication Scale (Ages 12–18)

The communication scale is a self-assessment test designed for youth ages 12–18 and measures various components of communication. Eye contact, listening skills, body language, and such. It's a good tool to be able to measure a youth's understanding of the elements involved in communication.

Other issues that are addressed include more complicated ones like empathy and their adaptability to other skills such as altering one's way of speaking in order to help someone who is angry calm down.

The test is 23 questions long and designed in a Likert scaling format (Never/Always).


For More Information: Youth Life Skills Evaluation Project

  • Youth Life Skills Evaluation
    This evaluation system will help youth development professionals share the value of local youth development programs with legislators, parents, other agencies as well as internal stakeholders. In this time of shrinking resources, youth development pr
Maslow's Hieararchy of Needs

Maslow's Hieararchy of Needs

POSIT: Problem-Oriented Screening Instrument for Teenagers

The POSIT is a 139-question, self-administered test using a "yes/no" format. It is designed to measure a client's problems and treatment or service needs in ten focus areas that include the following.

  • Substance use and abuse
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Family relations
  • Peer relations
  • Educational status (i.e., learning disabilities/disorders)
  • Vocational status
  • Social skills
  • Leisure/recreation
  • Aggressive behavior/delinquency

It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete and is designed for adolescents who read at least at a fifth-grade level.

POSIT - For More Information

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA),

National Institutes of Health.

Elizabeth Rahdert, Ph.D.

Division of Clinical and Services Research.

National Institute on Drug Abuse.

National Institutes of Health Room 4229.

6001 Executive Boulevard.


Maryland, 20892-9563


(301) 443-0107.

— Designed 1991


Life Events Checklist

The life events checklist is a self-assessment designed to measure the types of traumatic events a young person may have experienced or witnessed. It's 17 questions long and uses a measure that scales from Happened to Me to Doesn't Apply.

This is a useful tool in determining whether or not any childhood experiences may have contributed to situations including PTSD.

See "For More Information" below to view the link to the DMS-5 description.

For More Information: National Center for PTSD

Screening for ACES


Commercial Sexual Exploitation Identification Tool (CSE-IT)

According to the website:

"WestCoast’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation-Identification Tool (CSE-IT, pronounced “see it”) is designed to improve early identification of children who are commercially sexually exploited. The CSE-IT is appropriate for use by any provider serving youth, including child welfare workers, probation officers, mental health clinicians, and first responders."

This is a biopsychosocial assessment that seems to be more appropriate as an intake measure. It is administered and focuses on the following areas: Housing, Prior Abuse/Trauma, Health, and Appearance, Environment, Relationships, Current Trauma, Coercion, Exploitation.

For More Information

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Finn


Finn (author) from Barstow on November 10, 2020:

Thank you. I hope they are helpful. These are some of the basic ones that I found useful in general assessments. I just obtained my MSW and wish you luck in your pursuit of a noble profession.

I hope to add some more in the coming months.

Shaienna Q. on November 10, 2020:

Thank you for the information. I'm currently an MSW student and have an internship doing therapy and skill-building with foster/adopted youth and their families. I'll definitely be using some of these assessment tools in my session to evaluate my clients and their improvement over the course of our 6 months together.

Mitara N from South Africa on April 19, 2020:

Thank you for providing a very insightful article. By providing reference, many can always refer to your article for guidance.

Thank you for sharing