Community Assessment

What Is a Community Assessment?

a close-up picture of a toddler looking up

The community assessment (CA) is the collection and analysis of data related to the needs and characteristics of Head Start-eligible children and families in the grantee service area (i.e., geographic area). It identifies program and community resources available to meet their needs and specifies where there are gaps. It provides important community demographic data you can use to direct your recruitment efforts to those children and families most in need of Head Start services.

The community assessment also helps you identify and understand the most significant issues and trends affecting families with young children in your service area. For example, it might identify a low-income housing shortage that could result in under-enrollment for your program. It could reveal a population shift from one geographic area to another, so the location of centers might need to be reassessed.

Ultimately, the information from the community assessment is used to inform programmatic decisions, including planning, service delivery, and evaluation, both at the grantee level and the federal level. Areas where the community assessment report impacts grantee level decisions include recruitment and selection criteria, staffing patterns, program options, location of centers, and how services will be delivered to children and families. Findings from your community assessment may also influence your program's long-range goals and short-term objectives.

On a federal level, community assessment findings gathered across grantee programs may point to emerging or changing needs within specific populations or geographic areas, which may in turn drive new priorities at a national level. For example, community assessments across a region may indicate a need to increase support for dual language learners or target training for staff coping with the aftermath of natural disasters.