7.3 Supporting Child Development Services: Screening and Ongoing Assessment

What Is It?

The purpose of screening is to identify children who should be referred for evaluation for possible developmental, health, or sensory concerns. The Home Visitor’s Handbook (see Chapter 6.4, “Screening”) describes strategies home visitors can use to complete the required developmental screening within 45 days of a child’s enrollment [45 CFR 1304.20(b)(1)].

Ongoing assessment is a process used to determine how children are developing across all developmental domains and to track their growth, development, and learning over time 45 CFR [1304.3(a)(1)(i)-(ii)]. It is a continuous cycle that allows staff to make informed decisions about individualizing care based on observations and documentation. The Home Visitor’s Handbook (see Chapter 6.5, “Ongoing Assessment and Curriculum Planning”) describes the connections among observation, ongoing assessment, and individualizing curriculum as well as provides strategies home visitors can use to support the effective use of ongoing assessment and curriculum planning.

You have an important role to play in supporting both screening and ongoing assessment processes. You ensure that

  • your program has research-based, valid, and reliable tools;
  • home visitors receive ongoing training in using the tools, interpreting the results, and using the results;
  • staff complete screenings and ongoing assessments within required time frames;
  • home visitors engage families in the screening and ongoing assessment process; and
  • home visitors connect observation and ongoing assessment to joint curriculum planning with parents.

How To


Take the following actions to support home visitors in completing the screening process:

  • Work with program staff (e.g., health manager) to ensure children receive vision and hearing screenings within the appropriate timelines.
  • Work with program staff and parent input to choose a valid, reliable, culturally and linguistically appropriate standardized developmental screening tool [Head Start Act 642(f)(6)], preferably one that requires parent input.
  • Familiarize yourself with the appropriate use of the tool and how to analyze screening results.
  • Ensure that home visitors receive adequate training on how to use the tool, engage parents in the screening process and share results, and interpret the results.
  • Establish a tracking system to ensure that home visitors meet the 45-day deadline for screening.
  • Establish connections with Part C early intervention providers in the event that children need to be referred for further evaluation.
  • Work with home visitors on ways to sensitively share screening results with families when results may indicate a need for further evaluation.

Ongoing assessment

Take the following actions to support home visitors in conducting ongoing assessment:

  • Work with program staff and parents to choose research-based assessment tools and methods that are valid and reliable; developmentally, linguistically, and culturally appropriate for the children in your program; and that address the five essential domains [Head Start Act 642(f)(5)].
  • Familiarize yourself with the appropriate use of the tool(s) and how to interpret assessment results.
  • Ensure that home visitors have adequate observation skills and systems for documenting observations.
  • Ensure that home visitors receive adequate and ongoing training on how to use the tool(s), engage parents in the assessment process, interpret assessment results and share them with families, and use results to inform curriculum planning.
  • Help home visitors identify child assessment opportunities during home visits.
  • Strategize with home visitors on ways to integrate information about safety, nutrition, and other health-related topics as they discuss assessment results and developmental milestones with parents; and
  • Establish a tracking system to ensure that home visitors finalize child assessment data according to the checkpoints your program has set, so that the data can be aggregated, analyzed, and used with other program data for continuous program improvement [45 CFR 1307.3(b)(2)(i)].

Learn More

This webinar discusses how to integrate data from assessments into daily experiences. Early Head Start staff also learn how to identify behavioral and developmental concerns observed while working with infants and toddlers.

This paper addresses the perspectives of parents and program staff in the sharing of child assessment information through the formation of partnerships and suggests strategies for bringing those perspectives together. It outlines a framework for building partnerships between program staff and parents that establish ongoing communication, enhance teacher-child and parent child relationships, and help prepare children and families for transitions to later schooling.

This tip sheet explains screening for infants and toddlers. It covers the purpose of screening, appropriate screening tools, timing, and results. Program administrators, staff, parents, and disability personnel will find the information useful. Applicable Program Performance Standards and resources are also included.

The partnership between parents and Head Start and Early Head Start staff is fundamental to children's current and future success in school readiness and beyond. Discover how programs can share information with families about children’s learning and development. Staff may use this resource to identify specific strategies that support relationship building with families.

This questionnaire is designed to assist home-based program staff with reflecting on their program’s ongoing child assessment system. It is divided into four sections: Getting ready to get the most out of your child assessments; Key concepts for getting the most out of your assessments; Ongoing assessment: capturing the progress of children’s learning; Documenting observations. The questionnaire is tied to the “Learning From Assessment Toolkit.”