Community Assessment

Program Options and Calendar

a toddler girl holding a baby doll

Head Start programs must choose to operate one or more of the following program options: center-based, home-based, family child care, or an approved locally-designed variation. In order to operate a locally-designed program option, a program must request and be approved for a waiver (45 CFR §1302.24). The program options chosen must be based on the needs of children and families, as supported by data identified in your community assessment (45 CFR §1302.20(a)(1)).

As you review program options, you need to consider the following data:

  • What families say they want or need
  • Availability of child development, child care centers, and family child care programs in your service area and the number of Head Start children who use them (or who are on their waiting lists)
  • Typical work, school, and training schedules of parents with eligible children
  • Estimates of population growth for Head Start-eligible families

As required in 45 CFR §1302.20(a)(2), Head Start programs must consider the results of the annual community assessment in choosing a program option and developing a program calendar. Specifically, programs must determine whether child and family needs would be better served by:

  1. Converting existing slots to full school day or full-working day slots
  2. Extending the program year
  3. Converting existing Head Start slots to Early Head Start slots

In addition, programs must seek other ways to promote continuity of care and services and identify alternative revenue sources to support full-working-day services. If no additional funding is available, program resources may be used.

How a Community Assessment Informed Program Planning

Learn how a health services need identified through a community assessment informed program planning and promoted regular attendance.

icon of 3 arrows pointing into a trayCollect Data

The Healthy Beginnings Head Start/Early Head Start Program operates four centers for infants, toddlers, and preschool children whose families live in two urban communities. In preparation for their five-year application, they implemented a comprehensive community assessment. During the community assessment, a subcommittee lead by the health manager:

  • Conducted a health assessment of communities in the program's service area to understand the health needs of children and adults, as well as available resources, gaps in services, and barriers to care
  • Reviewed multiple sources of health data collected at the local and state levels and found that the prevalence of pediatric asthma in their state was one of the highest in the country
  • Conducted interviews with members of the HSAC, local boards of health, and other key informants

icon of magnifying glass looking at graph lineAggregate

Through this assessment, the health manager learned local health care providers were seeing an increase in the number of children with asthma. This was consistent with the health data she had collected on children with special health care needs enrolled in the program during the last four years. The number of children who received medical treatment for asthma was also trending up.

In addition, a multi-year comparison of the grantee's PIR revealed that the percentage of children with asthma in their program was higher than the national percentage. One challenge she identified was the lack of a local asthma organization families could attend; the closest one was an hour and a half away.

Data collection established additional findings

  • After analyzing attendance data, the subcommittee noted that 90 percent of children with asthma were frequently absent. They were in the group of children identified as being at risk of missing 10 percent of program days.
  • After talking with teachers, the subcommittee learned the teachers felt comfortable implementing individual healthcare plans, but were not confident about identifying triggers in their classrooms that might aggravate a child's asthmas.
  • After meeting with families, the subcommittee discovered many families did not fully understand asthma and wanted more information about their child's health condition. Several families with limited English proficiency said they would like information in their home language.

icon of three people connected in a circleUse and Share Data

The community assessment subcommittee shared their findings with the HSAC and offered some recommendations. The committee, in turn, suggested several strategies which included connecting the program to a local business that had previously funded community health initiatives. Following up on these strategies, Healthy Beginnings developed a comprehensive approach to asthma management that maximized learning and promoted regular attendance. This included:

  • Developing an asthma policy that included staff training on asthma, how to implement an Asthma-Friendly Child Care Checklist in all classrooms, and how to complete Child Enrollment/Attendance/Symptom Records for children with asthma
  • Implementing a two-year local health initiative with the ABC Healthy Living Company to establish an asthma education home visiting program for families with children with asthma
  • Working with the local hospital and the regional chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to establish an asthma education support group for program families and other members of the community.

To learn more about this case study and how this community assessment informed program planning see Foundations for Excellence: A Guide for Five-Year Planning and Continuous Improvement, 2nd Edition.