Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)
by Kim Howes, Assistant Juvenile Defender
The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is implementing a new screening tool (YASI) to replace the current risk and needs assessment. The stated purpose of this new assessment is to better measure the risk of recidivism and to help develop an appropriate case plan to best suit the needs of the youth who is placed on probation. You can access the presentation from DJJ here.
The assessment addresses nine domains: basic needs, physical health, school, family, aggression, peers, attitudes, free time, and adaptive skills. There is both a pre-screen assessment and a full assessment. The Department of Juvenile Justice provided an overview of the assessment in November and as a result we want to provide you with some of our concerns as well as provide you with issues you may need to be aware of to assist you with advocating for your client at disposition.
Most importantly, this assessment is designed to take place at intake or prior to adjudication. While statute §7B-2413 specifically provides that the risk and needs assessment shall not be submitted or considered by the court prior to disposition, we know that in some jurisdictions this isn’t the case and information is shared prior to adjudication. This is especially an area of concern given the new assessment. As an important reminder – §7B-2408 explicitly prohibits any statement made by the youth to a juvenile court counselor during intake to be admissible to the court prior to the dispositional hearing.
Issues to be aware of:
The child accumulates points for not only prior adjudications, but also referrals and petitions filed for probation violations, regardless of whether or not the violation was adjudicated.
Several sections (basic needs, free time, community involvement, school) have the potential to create disparity based on poverty and DSS involvement, not necessarily factors that are in our client’s control.
There are broad stroke assumptions about who may or may not be a positive influence and who may or may not be a gang member.
The sections addressing attitudes and aggression are areas of significant concern. These sections assume the youth is responsible and if the youth doesn’t admit there are points assessed for impact of behavior and willingness to make amends. There are several additional questions that address sex offenses that could possibly lead to additional petitions.
These concerns are difficult to address because the majority of these assessments will be conducted prior to assignment of counsel. As a result, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to proactively ensure that any information received is not provided to the ADA prior to adjudication, and if it is, consider objecting to the court and, if necessary, making a motion to suppress statements made to the court counselor. We have a sample motion here.
We hope by making you aware of this new assessment and its potential issues you will be better able to protect your client’s rights and help the court understand your client in a way that will help the court better address your client’s individual needs at disposition. Please reach out to OJD to let us know of any concerns you see as this is implemented.
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