Community Assessment

Establishing the Community Assessment Team

a child's hand is stacking colorful blocks

A team approach to conducting the community assessment is beneficial because it distributes the effort among many people and adds a variety of perspectives. The community assessment team plans and implements the process, interprets the data, and presents a report of findings for review by the agency's governing body and Policy Council. Ideally, the team will include representation from within the program, including those that reflect the diversity of the communities or populations served, as well as external partners. As soon as the community assessment team is formed, a team leader should be selected. This person will be the primary point of contact throughout the process.

When determining the team structure your program will implement, remember that your goal is to obtain an accurate and comprehensive community assessment while encouraging the effective participation of team members. Ensure all participants are orientated to the process and their role, as well as understand the importance of the community assessment and its impact on the provision of Head Start services to children and families. Team members will benefit from actively participating in the community assessment. They will become better informed about their community, the Head Start program, and the direction forward. Generally, the community assessment team should include:

  • Head Start director
  • Grantee agency representatives, if applicable
  • Key program staff
  • Governing body and Policy Council representatives
  • Parents
  • Community partners

It is helpful to have at least one team member who is skilled at working with numerical (quantitative) data.

Table 1: Key Roles and Responsibilities of Community Assessment (CA) Team Members

Role Responsibilities
Head Start director
  • Ensures the CA is fully and accurately conducted
  • Uses the CA data to inform the program's long-range goals and short-term objectives
  • Ensures information from the CA is used in program development and strategic planning and referenced in the grant application

Grantee agency representatives if applicable

  • For some grantee agencies, the executive director assumes responsibility for leading the CA process, and the Head Start program director is the leader or co-leader
  • Collects CA information for non-Head Start programs the agency may also sponsor

Key program staff (e.g., managers and other staff)

  • Represents all program areas (e.g., education, health, family services, disabilities, transportation, and administration)
    The information gathered and analyzed in the CA should reflect a perspective that encompasses all aspects of the Head Start's program and services.
  • Contributes important information and insights to the CA
    It is beneficial to establish a process for communicating with all program staff throughout the CA (whether or not they are official CA team members). This includes both sharing information learned through the CA as it emerges, as well as engaging staff in providing feedback related to the key CA questions. Everyone in Head Start shares responsibility for learning about the community, its families, and its resources.
  • Brings perspectives from various sources of information
    It is beneficial to have the participation of both key management staff and staff at different levels within the organization.

Governing body and Policy Council representatives

  • Involve the governing body, Policy Council, Policy Committee at the delegate level, and advisory committees in the CA process
    Advisory committees might include the Parent Committee (45 CFR §1301.4(a)) and/or the Health Services Advisory Committee (HSAC).
  • Kept informed regarding the CA progress and have opportunities to ask questions and provide input (45 CFR §1302.40(b))
  • Review the findings with appropriate decision-making bodies before the complete document is finalized when possible


  • Serve as key advisors and important sources of information in the CA process
  • Act as decision-makers as members of Policy Council or Policy Committee
  • Represent information and views from eligible families in the service area
  • Collect data and views from other parents and community members,
    including information about trends in the local economy, child health status, and service needs that impact Head Start planning and programming

Community partners

  • Represent and bring information from social service agencies, city or county government, public schools, child care programs, health agencies, and other organizations with knowledge about Head Start-eligible families
  • Share their own needs assessments and community data
    While information provided by partners cannot replace the Head Start CA, it may include detailed information on issues relevant to Head Start-eligible children and families, as well as organizational and program staff.
  • Broaden partnerships
    The CA process is an opportunity to create new and strengthen existing partnerships and increase awareness about how the Head Start program contributes to and supports the local community.

As your program grows its internal expertise to implement a comprehensive community assessment process, a consultant can support your efforts. If this is the case, select a consultant who knows Head Start and has worked with similar agencies. The consultant should serve as a partner through each step of the community assessment process, providing ongoing updates and keeping you informed along the way. If a consultant is used, the community assessment team will maintain a key role by overseeing the process, leading the way forward, and ensuring the final report meets the team's expectations.

As the community assessment team begins its work, the members may want to use brainstorming techniques to discuss the following questions and determine implementation activities.

  1. What is the purpose of the team?
  2. What tasks will the team need to perform?
  3. What skills are required to perform the team's tasks? Based on the tasks and skills identified, does the team need to increase its capacity by adding other individuals to the team?
  4. Who are the individuals responsible for performing each task?
  5. What are the completion dates for each task?
  6. What does the team need in order to stay motivated?
  7. What kind of guidance, support, and resources do the team need?