The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool is used in the state of Idaho to help you capture your family’s story so you can identify the strengths of your child and family, articulate your needs in a way that helps you prioritize the things to work on, and inform treatment planning between multiple providers. All of this is exciting, but it is new. To help you be successful with this new tool, the Parent Network has collected some tips to help you get started. We have broken our tips into two categories, highlights and details. We have included the highlights on this page, but you can look at the details by clicking the link. It is okay to read one now and come back later when you want more information. If you have done a CANS with your child and you have tips you would like to add to our lists, please let us know!

(Our details page has more information for the parents who are interested.)

Looking for Resources?

Take a look at our resources.  If you don’t see what you need, please let us know so we can create something new!

Do You Have A Resource?

If so, let us know!  We are always looking for tips and new ways to support parents just like you.


  • Relax!

    The clinician is prepared to make the experience a good and useful one

  • Give yourself enough time.

    Doing a CANS the first time is an involved process that will take a morning or afternoon.

  • Tell stories that help the clinician understand what is important to your family.

    While you can’t tell every story of your child, and it is completely fine to not tell any stories at all, make sure you highlight the details that are important to you.

  • Remember that this is your CANS and there are no wrong answers.

    The goal is to create a picture of your child and family so you know how to create an effective treatment plan. Some parents find it helpful to tell the clinician what they do for their children that they would not do for their other children or children that age. It is easy to forget to mention the things that are just part of our regular day.

  • You can get others involved.

    You can have your therapists, teachers, support people, and whoever is involved in your child’s care participate in the CANS. People who know your child can help you tell the story and help the clinician better understand the things that are important to you.

  • The CANS is a living document.

    You will work with your clinician to update the CANS every 90 days. This does not mean starting over but updating any information that has changed.

  • The CANS output has a score of 0, 1, 2, or 3.

    It can feel odd to see your life distilled down to a number, but that number (actually a collection of numbers) can help you understand where your most urgent needs are and the best way to start getting your child and family help.

  • Your clinician will discuss the results with you.

    Your CANS is not final until you have had a chance to talk to the clinician about the results and you agree on the output. This is not a “majority rule” situation. This is your story and you have the right to have a score that you are comfortable with.