Examining the relationship between the needs of children and young persons living in residential care and critical incidents using the Singapore CANS assessment tool

Grace S. Chng, Wan Fen Yip, Lydia Pek, Ming Hwa Ting, Chi Meng Chu - Developmental Child Welfare


Children and young persons (CYPs) in out-of-home care often demonstrate a variety of needs resultant from their early adverse experiences and complex family backgrounds. In Singapore, the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment tool is used to capture the individual’s needs and strengths for case planning. This study had two aims: first, it sought to test whether CYPs who entered residential care with higher level-of-care (LoC) scores on the CANS tool, indicative of higher needs or more intensive services required, were more likely to experience a critical incident. Second, it aimed to test the various needs separately with the occurrence of critical incidents to delineate the impact of each individual need on critical incident. Using a sample of 488 CYPs aged between 5 years and 17 years who were residing in 13 voluntary children’s homes in Singapore, the study found that 46.3% of the sample had experienced a critical incident. The results showed that CYPs with higher LoC scores were more likely to have a critical incident, although this comparison was only significant between the lowest and highest LoC scores. Child-related issues such as the presence of self-harm and risk of suicide, behavioral problems, emotional problems, sexual behavior, delinquency, and poor caregiver bond at entry to residential care were also observed to be significantly associated with the occurrence of critical incidents. The findings and implications are discussed accordingly.