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Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2001 Mar;4(1):63-84.

The Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS): review and current status.

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  • 1Clinical, School Psychology Program, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106-9490, USA.


Measures of impairment in psychological and behavioral functioning have a long history in the field of children's mental health, and appear particularly useful in eligibility determination, treatment planning, and outcome evaluation of services for children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbance (SED). One recently developed multidimensional measure of functional impairment-the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS; K. Hodges, 1989, 1997)-has enjoyed widespread use nationwide. It has been adopted as a tool for making treatment eligibility decisions and documenting outcomes on a statewide level in more than 20 states and on a local level in dozens of research and demonstration projects. In this paper, the technical merits of the CAFAS are closely examined, with the conclusion that empirical evidence is lacking to support its valid use in making the types of treatment decisions for which it is currently being employed across the nation. Furthermore, there appears to be little concern among mental health researchers, practitioners, administrators, and state legislators about these apparent limitations of the CAFAS. The potential benefits of establishing objective and valid level-of-need criteria, using the CAFAS are numerous and the interest in doing so is clear; however, the psychometric limitations of the scale identified in this review need to be addressed before its full potential can be realized.

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