Tip Sheet on Parent Focus Groups on Facilities

Program directors are strongly encouraged to involve parents in the entire planning process for facilities development. Program directors and members of the facilities planning team will find this resource helpful with its planning tips, an outline for focus group facilitator, and a sample reporting form. Directors should plan a meeting that provides an arena for parents to participate in a discussion and to contribute to plans for the project.

  1. A one-page notice announcing the meeting should be provided to all parents two weeks prior to the meeting date.

    The notice should contain:

    • A broad description of the agency and how the planned work will better Head Start facilities.
    • A statement that parental advice is needed in the development of plans to improve centers in which Head start programs are housed.
    • A statement that child care will be provided during the meeting.

    The notice should be given to parents when children are picked up from the center; it should not be mailed. A short reminder notice should go out two days before the meeting.

  2. Head Start directors also should be encouraged to personally invite parents to attend the meeting. Directors should be advised not to give out complicated information, but to simply state that an opportunity exists to develop plans to improve the facility in which the center is housed and that parents' input will be vital to developing effective plans.

  3. Estimate the number of people who will attend based on past attendance or ask teachers to informally survey parents as to whether or not they can attend. Based on the estimate, serve refreshments to demonstrate that the presence of parents is valuable and that this group spends funds to accomplish its goals. Refreshments should be available at the start and throughout the meeting. They help to break the ice and as a reward to individuals who arrive on time.

Facilitator Outline

  1. The facilitator should explain the purpose of the meeting, including general information about the planning process, goals and objectives. An emphasis should be placed on the need for parent input on the condition and other considerations of the physical facility (as opposed to the Head Start program). No commitments should be made by the facilitator about future work on facilities.

  2. The facilitator should explain to parents that in order to obtain a true picture of how well the Head Start center's layout and conditions serve parents and children, parents will be asked to visualize their families_ involvement during a day at Head Start.

  3. Questions/Discussion prompts for parents:

    • Are there any conditions at the center that affect how you dress your child for his/her day at Head Start? (Some facilities have asphalt play areas that require hard shoes or might discourage shorts. Other facilities have exposed loose soil and children return home dirty. Allow for discussions of problems with storage of children's belongings.)
    • Describe how your child gets from your home to the Head Start center. (Allow for discussions of transportation problems.)
    • Do you take your child directly to his/her classroom? Why or why not? (Allow for discussions of parking problems and security issues.)
    • Describe whether or not the location of the center affects your child's attendance. Is the center conveniently located?
    • Is the classroom to which you take your child welcoming and spacious? Describe the positive or negative reactions you have to your child's room.
    • What is your favorite room at the center and why? What is the least favorite room?
    • Does the center's layout give you a good feeling about the security of your child? (Allow discussions about unauthorized people having access to the facility.)
    • Are there any places or conditions at the center that you warn your child about? Has your child had any accidents at the center that might be directly connected to the center's structure or conditions?
    • Explain feelings and observations about the outside play area. Can you describe how or where your child gets physical playtime during inclement weather?
    • What are your feelings about the nutrition services at the center? (Lead into descriptions of breakfast and lunch and how the facility's kitchen or lack of a kitchen affects meals at the center.)
    • How do you learn of events or special classroom activities at the center? Is there a need for a room in which parents could meet and plan activities? Do you have a chance to interact with the other parents? Teachers?
    • Do you feel comfortable about attending activities at the center during evening hours?
    • If you could make just one change to how the center is built, what would that change be? Why?
    • What is the one thing you like most about the center?

  4. Complete the report form as a record of the meeting. Refer to the attachment- Parent Focus Group Meeting Report Form.

Tip Sheet on Parent Focus Groups on Facilities Development. The National Head Start Facilities Assistance Desk. HHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. n.d. English.

Last Reviewed: March 2012

Last Updated: December 2, 2014