Toolkits

Screening and Assessment Tools for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs

Youth service provider holding a clipboard

When providing services for youth who run away and youth who are experiencing homelessness, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Though many youth experience homelessness for similar reasons and many face similar challenges, every young person’s specific circumstances differ. And each young person has a unique set of strengths that can help support their transition to adulthood.

To help youth-serving organizations determine the types of interventions and services each young person needs, the National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families developed this list of screening and assessment tools. Updated in May 2020, the list is divided into sections covering mental health, substance use disorders, education, and life skills. 

Screening and assessment means using credible, evidence-informed tools and practices to evaluate each youth’s individual strengths and needs. Screening involves brief instruments that check for things such as traumatic stress and mental health problems and can identify youth who may need more thorough diagnostic evaluations and treatment. Assessment involves evaluating multiple aspects of social, emotional, and behavioral competencies and functioning to inform service planning and monitor progress toward better outcomes. To be trauma-informed, screening and assessing should only be done with the youth’s understanding, permission, and willingness to participate.

The screening and assessment tools listed here include those that are appropriate for use across various federal programs for youth and young adults generally between the ages of 12 and 24 and that are low cost or in the public domain. The exception to this low cost or no cost criterion are monitoring instruments that can be implemented at the system level, since it is assumed that the cost of those instruments might be shared across multiple agencies or partners.

You can find additional information on screening and assessment tools at the following locations:

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions

NIDA Screening and Assessment Tools Chart

 Screening and Assessment Tools for Runaway and Homeless Youth