Community Assessment

Service Areas, Recruitment Areas, and Program Locations

a toddler girl holding a baby doll

In the grant application, each program must propose a service area and define that area by county or sub-county, such as a municipality, town, census tract, or jurisdiction of a federally-recognized Indian reservation (45 CFR §1302.11(a)(1). The community assessment is a valuable tool for helping programs identify their service area and any need for changes to the service area. If a program decides to change its service area after the grant has been approved, the program must submit a new service area proposal to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) for approval. Service areas can be vast. It is helpful to use the community assessment to identify areas with the greatest need for service, even if your program is not currently serving children in those areas. Focus your recruitment efforts there.

Your community assessment will provide detailed information about the location of eligible families, including populations that may be underserved. You will have current information about attendance and waiting lists at Head Start locations, as well as data regarding other child development programs in the community. If waiting lists are small or attendance is poor at some sites, you may need to reconsider the locations.

The chosen recruitment area should include as many eligible children as possible. The concentration of families and the availability and accessibility of facilities are additional factors to consider when making this recommendation. Include maps in your report that show the current service and recruitment areas, as well as maps of proposed changes.

Decisions about center locations can be difficult to make. Your considerations include staffing patterns, budget considerations, the availability of sites, and their accessibility to families. Sometimes, programs need to make difficult recommendations based on changing patterns of residence or employment. Your data analysis may indicate your program should consider closing a center or relocating services closer to where families live and work. On the other hand, your data analysis may indicate that more eligible families are arriving in the service area. If findings result in the need for expansion of services, be creative in seeking solutions, such as partnering with community-based programs or seeking funding from other sources if Head Start funding is not available.