Screening Tools

The following trauma screening tools were presented in ACYF’s Information Memorandum, Promoting Social and Emotional Well-Being for Children and Youth Receiving Child Welfare Services (ACYF-CB-IM-12-04), available online at:, as examples of trauma-informed screening tools.

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Trauma Version

The Child and Adolescent Needs (CANS) Trauma Version is one of several CANS instruments (e.g., CANS Mental Health, CANS Comprehensive, etc.).  This instrument measures functioning across domains for traumatic experiences and traumatic stress symptoms, as well as emotional/behavioral issues related to trauma.

For more information on CANS Resources and Training Information, visit the Praed Foundation’s website at  For an overview of the CANS Trauma Version and discussion on its uses in a child welfare setting, go to NCTSN’s Screening and Assessment for Trauma in Child Welfare Settings Speaker Series (  Information on the CANS Trauma Version can be found in the module, Trauma Screening and Assessment Measures for Child Welfare.  Note that while registration with the NCTSN Learning Center is required to view this module, there is no cost.

Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ)

The Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ) is a 28-item self-report inventory that provides brief, reliable, and valid screening for histories of abuse and neglect in children ages 12 and older.  The CTQ contains five subscales, three focused on assessing abuse (Emotional, Physical, and Sexual), and two focused on assessing neglect (Emotional and Physical).  Each subscale, in turn, has five items, and there is a three-item Minimization-Denial subscale to check for individuals who may be under-reporting their traumatic experiences.  Interpretive guidelines help identify a likely case of abuse at one of three levels – mild, moderate, or severe.

For more comprehensive information on this tool and instructions on how to order manuals and forms, visit Pearson’s website at:

Pediatric Emotional Distress Scale (PEDS)

The Pediatric Emotional Distress Scale (PEDS) is designed to rapidly assess and screen for elevated symptomatology in children following exposure to a stressful and/or traumatic event.  It is not intended to be a diagnostic instrument.  The measure consists of behaviors that have been identified in the literature as associated with experiencing traumatic events and consists of 17 general behavior items and 4 trauma-specific items.  The measure yields scores on the following scales:

  • Anxious/withdrawn
  • Fearful
  • Acting out

Questions related to these scales are measured along a 4-point Likert scale with attributes ranging from “Almost Never” to “Very Often.”  It is designed for children ages 2-10.

For additional information on this tool, visit NCTSN’s website at:

Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) is a brief behavioral-screening instrument for children ages 4-16 that assesses child positive and negative attributes across the following 5 scales:

  • Emotional symptoms
  • Conduct problems
  • Hyperactivity-inattention
  • Peer problems
  • Prosocial behavior

The measure also yields a Total Difficulties score.  In addition to the child self-report version, the SDQ was designed to be administered to parents or teachers in parallel versions.  For more information about and to obtain copies of the tool, go to: