Adopting the Assessment Center Framework

The below phases outline the full spectrum of support the NAC offers communities adopting the Assessment Center Framework. Collectively, these phases span a timeframe of about 2 years. NAC staff will conduct an initial consultation with communities to determine which of the phases and steps would be most beneficial to their community. Communities may select one or more of the below phases to engage the NAC in technical assistance.

Planning Phase – 6 - 8 months

I. Preparation – This step is expected to take one – two months. NAC staff and consultants will assist by working with the local coordinator/lead to ensure they are equipped with information and resources to carry out the below steps. This assistance would likely occur through one or two of the virtual supportive sessions.
a. Identify local project coordinator/lead for communications and logistics planning
b. Identify members of the local Assessment Center Planning Team
c. Provide preparatory reading/planning materials 

d. Schedule first on-site meeting

II. Kick-off - This step is expected to take two days in the form of an on-site visit. One day serving as the kick-off meeting and the other day (before or after) as a prep or debrief with key staff. NAC staff and consultants will work with the local coordinator/lead to facilitate the kick-off meeting and reach consensus on next steps.

a. Kick-off meeting with Assessment Center Planning Team to explain the process, establish consensus on expectations, and celebrate the start of community change.

III. Assessment Center Intervention Mapping & Community Connections Workshop – NAC staff and consultants will engage with community stakeholders over a 16-week time period to facilitate intervention mapping and community connections workshop. Intervention Mapping, also referred to as Sequential Intercept Model, helps communities determine how individuals encounter and move through systems processes (i.e., why and how are youth referred to justice, child welfare, and school discipline rather than referred to an AC to determine unmet or underlying needs). During this phase of support, local systems and community data will be gathered and analyzed to determine potential areas for intervention. It will be the responsibility of local stakeholders to obtain data required for this support.  This step is expected to take four to six months and is intended to help identify the target population of an Assessment Center.

Service system mapping (mapping community connections), grounded in the public health assets mapping approach, requires Assessment Centers and community stakeholders to thoroughly review available community services and supports, and map who they serve, how referrals are made, and what services are provided. It allows for community consensus on the availability of services and the decision points, or flow, of services offered within a community. This process also allows Centers to identify their referral network. 

Deliverables for this phase include:

  • Analyze a minimum of three local data sources (i.e. courts, law enforcement, schools) to better understand what youth are being referred to punitive systems and at what decision points.
  • Conduct a minimum of six stakeholder interviews (including system-impacted youth and families) to better understand what youth are being referred to punitive systems and at what decision points, gaps in services and supports, etc.
  • Facilitate a 1 ½ day session with community and stakeholders (to include system-impacted youth and families) to review analysis, discuss intervention points, and facilitate service mapping.
  • The release of a report detailing the processes and findings of Assessment Center intervention mapping and service system mapping.
  • Convene frequent meetings between project leads, planning team and NAC to ensure process mapping efforts are aligned and inform one another, adherence to timelines set forth by the group, and to gain input on findings or deliverable status. 

Operationalizing the Framework - 7 - 10 months

IV. Action Planning – 

The NAC Executive Director and/or consultant(s) are active team members of the planning and implementation teams tasked with launching the Assessment Center and provides resources and guidance in order to support planning, implementation, and launch. The NAC Executive Director and/or consultant(s) will be available for weekly virtual consultation and support. An initial review of the standards and criteria with the local planning team will allow representatives and the NAC to develop a plan for operationalizing the criteria to best fit the use of the local Assessment Center. NAC Staff will help provide information in order to effectively communicate the Assessment Center Framework and anticipated benefits to community members and stakeholders.

Utilizing the data and decisions made from the AC Intervention Mapping and Community Connections process, in conjunction with the NAC Assessment Center framework and standards of practice, the team will begin to develop an Assessment Center action plan to include:

• Resources necessary to align with Framework standards
• Referral Criteria
• Establishing a screening and assessment system
• Partnerships, policies, procedures, and activities needed for successful implementation
• Community resource and service mapping to inform referrals
• Establishing evaluation methods and measures of success
• Operational plans

V. Implementation – While there may be a launch day, this step is anticipated to take three – four months to help community troubleshoot any potential problems and support them in their beginning months with anything that may arise.

a. Launch of Assessment Center utilizing the action plan and implementation science.

Deliverables for this phase include:

  • Create an action plan, along side local planning team, that aligns with benchmarks which operationalize standards and criteria in the Assessment Center Framework.
  • Gather and disseminate resources (i.e., policies and procedures, job descriptions, forms, etc.) as examples from other NAC member centers;
  • Convene peer-to-peer sharing sessions, coordinated by the NAC, with Assessment Centers and their stakeholders (i.e., law enforcement, prosecutors, school leaders) from other jurisdictions across the United States that are based on needs and issues identified by the local community
  • Develop and provide at least two community presentations that outline a foundational understanding of the Assessment Center Framework;
  • Convene frequent meetings between project leads, planning team, and NAC to ensure action plan development and implementation efforts are aligned and inform one another, adherence to timelines set forth by the group, and to gain input on findings or deliverable status.

Process Evaluation Phase – 6 - 12 months

VI. Evaluation – This step is anticipated to take a minimum of six months. Throughout the launch of the assessment center, NAC Staff and consultants will evaluate the overall process and implementation of the Assessment Center.  The process evaluation addresses (1) Whether the Center is reaching the identified target population and (2) Whether its service delivery and support functions are consistent with the Assessment Center Framework. 


During a twelve - eighteen-month period, NAC staff and consultants will conduct six on-site technical assistance visits to support the process outlined above. Between on-site visits, the NAC will offer up to ten remote, virtual 2-hour supportive sessions. In an effort to support the continuous quality improvement process for centers across the country, after the launch of the assessment center you will have the option to become members of the NAC which will give them access to future trainings, conferences, technical assistance, and an online networking and peer-to-peer platform to ask questions and learn from other centers across the country.

Access to Experts

As a member-based organization, the NAC has the unique ability to engage members with specific expertise as it relates to your community need and action plan. We have the capacity to tap into the leadership and experiences of assessment centers serving different populations and geographic areas so your community can hear and learn directly from those who have been through this process.


(a) Initial Consultation with NAC Staff
(b) Three letters of support from among the following stakeholders:
a. Judge
b. School Superintendent
c. Elected Official
d. Chief of Police
e. Parent
f. Youth
g. Chief Juvenile Court Officer

h. Child Welfare Administrator

*If you don’t feel like your community is ready for planning assistance, you may wish to consider a community training on the assessment center model to start the educating your community and stakeholders.

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