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Assessing Community Needs for Child Care



Authors as Published

Novella Ruffin, Family and Human Development Specialist, Virginia State University

The need for child care has been documented nationally through state and national efforts, publications, and demographic studies by public, private, and federal agencies and organizations that serve the interests of children and families. Much of the documentation of the nation’s child care needs is attributed to the dramatic increase in the numbers of working parents (particularly mothers) of very young children and the numbers of school age children who are without parent/adult supervision after school hours. Although there is merit to the national and state data, there is also the need for individual communities to gather and analyze data that is specific to their own localities. Such a process would facilitate collaboration among various levels of a community to identify and prioritize service and resource needs.

The purposes for conducting a community child care needs assessment are varied. These purposes include creating an accurate picture of the supply of child care, identifying unmet needs for child care, developing an estimate of available child care services for non-traditional care and special needs children, determining causes of inadequate care, gathering data on funding sources for child care programs, and determining the best use of child care funds. A primary purpose of the assessment also is to obtain locally derived data and information that can be used to guide community based decisions and policy making around the issues of child care.

An assessment of community child care needs requires preliminary thought about perceived community needs relative to child care. Planning and processing, logistics of designing, administering, and analyzing the information and data are all critical components in considering a community assessment. Efforts should be made to engage the interest and attention of various levels of the community to recognize the project as a necessary and viable process. This process is often time consuming and demanding on community  resources. The process also involves a systematic approach to data collection, data analysis, and reporting of results.

In addition to surveying families, data would need to be collected on various demographic factors related to families, parents, children, and the community, such as the rate of growth for the locality. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be gathered and later analyzed using statistical procedures and content analysis.

The Child Care Needs Assessment Survey

The purpose for doing the survey determines the survey design. For example, to identify unmet needs for child care among lower paid employees, survey items may include basic aspects of the employee’s job, basic demographic facts, financial situation, current child care arrangements, and preferences for child care arrangements.

Questions for assessing the child care needs of families in rural communities may include: where do children spend their after school hours? what problems do parents have with care arrangements? at what age do parents feel children can be left home alone? what educational information is needed by children in self-care? And how often and for what time periods do families need child care?

Other questions for respondents could be relative to identifying present source(s) of child care for preschool children, rating their satisfaction with these arrangements, and giving the total weekly cost of child care. Respondents not currently using a day care center could be asked whether they would use such a center if the cost was reasonable and the location was convenient.

It is essential to ensure confidentiality of the respondents and their answers during the data collection and reporting phase of the study. Include a cover letter that explains the purpose of the survey and assures the respondents that their answers will be kept confidential and reported in such a way that no person can be identified. The questionnaire (survey) should contain no identifying information and no name or address list should exist.

The following sample survey suggests items for consideration in the survey design.

A Community Child Care Needs Assessment Survey (sample)

This is an assessment of child care needs of the (locality name) community. If you have parenting responsibilities, we would appreciate your time in helping us assess your needs. Please complete the survey and return no later than (give time frame). Thank you for assisting us with this effort.

  1. Would you use child care services if they were available to you? Yes               No

  2. If yes, please complete the reminder of the survey.

  3. Are you currently using child care services?Yes               No

    If yes, please identify the type of services you use:

    AGE RANGE# of Children $ COST/CH

    Infant (Birth to 11 months)____________________             ____________________

    Toddler (11 to 36 months)____________________             ____________________

    Preschool (3 to 5 years)____________________             ____________________

    After School Care (K-6th grade)____________________             ____________________

    After School Care (7-9th grade)____________________             ____________________

  4. Please mark the type of child care needed:

    Full Time____________________                                                      

    Half Days (5 days a week)____________________                                                      

    Partial Week (2 or 3 times/wk)____________________                                                      

    Half Days-Partial wk (2 or 3 times/wk)____________________                                                      

    After School Care____________________                                                      

    Night Care or Evening Care____________________                                                      

    Sick Child Care____________________                                                      


  5. Please mark the location/type of care you are currently utilizing:

    Type/Location____________________             ____________________

    # of Children ____________________             ____________________

    Age(s) of Children____________________             ____________________

    Day Care Center ____________________             ____________________

    Family Care Center ____________________             ____________________

    Provider in my own Home ____________________             ____________________

    Spouse/Partner ____________________             ____________________

    Care by family members ____________________             ____________________

    After School Care ____________________             ____________________

    Care by older sibling ____________________             ____________________

    Other: _______________________________________ ____________________             ____________________

  6. Are you satisfied with your current child care arrangements?Yes               No

    If no, please explain:

  1. If you do not utilize child care services, what prevents you from using services?





    Hours of Operation____________________                                                      

    Happy with current provider____________________                                                      

    Other: (please explain).____________________                                                      

  2. To help assess funding needs, please indicate your household gross salary range. 

    # of people in house:____________________                                                      

    below- $20,000____________________                                                      




    over -50,000____________________                                                      

  3. Is your household headed by a two-parent household or a single parent household?

    Please check: Single parent ____________________          Two parent ____________________

  4. How MANY children do you have in each of the following age groups? 

    a.0-4 years old____________________                                                      

    b.5-8 years old____________________                                                      

    c.9-12 years old____________________                                                      

    d.13-15 years old ____________________                                                      

  1. Please check one in each column for the type of care you USE and the type of care you PREFER.

    Type of Care I
    Would Prefer
    Type of Care I
    Use Most of the time



    a. care by parent in own home ____________________             ____________________

    b. care in relative’s home ____________________             ____________________

    c. care in own home with relative ____________________             ____________________

    d. care in your home with non-relative ____________________             ____________________

    e. care in non-relative’s home ____________________             ____________________

    f. child care for self ____________________             ____________________

    g. child care center ____________________             ____________________

    h. combination of care as needed ____________________             ____________________

    i. currently searching for care ____________________             ____________________

    j. School-based program ____________________             ____________________

    k. Other____________________             ____________________

  2. Please check the days you need child care. Check all that apply.

    a. Monday-Friday____________________                                                      

    b. Snow days, holidays, summer breaks____________________                                                      

    c. Other ____________________                                                      

  3. Please check the times you need school-age childcare. Check all that apply.

    a. Before school only ____________________                                                      

    b. After school only ____________________                                                      

    c. Before and after school ____________________                                                      

    d. Other ____________________                                                      

  1. Please check the amount you consider reasonable to pay for child care PER MONTH/WEEK/PER CHILD during the regular school year. Check only one.

    a.No pay required____________________                                                      

    b. $ 1-24____________________                                                      

    c. $ 25-40____________________                                                      

    d. $ 41-60____________________                                                      

    e. $ 61-80____________________                                                      

    f. $ 81-100____________________                                                      

    g. $ 101-125____________________                                                      

    h. Over $125____________________                                                      

  2. Have you had any of these child care related problems during the past year? 

    Check problem areas. 

    Yes, I have had this problem                                         


    a. Cost of care____________________                                                      

    b. Finding temporary care____________________                                                      

    c. Finding care for sick child____________________                                                      

    d. Finding care for child with special needs____________________                                                      

    e. Location of care____________________                                                      

    f. Transportation to/from care____________________                                                      

    g. Dependability of care____________________                                                      

    h. Quality of care____________________                                                      

    i. Scheduling child care to match work schedule____________________                                                      

Thank you very much for your assistance!! 

The decision to conduct a community assessment of child care needs should be a community decision involving collaborative efforts at various levels. The process involves a systematic approach to data collection, data analysis, and reporting that involves staff time and use of community resources.


Debord, Karen. (1991). Child Care: Organizing At The Community Level. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

DeBord, Karen. (1997). Comprehensive Community-Based Child Care: Is Your Community Ready? North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

DeBord, Karen. (1998). Child Care Needs Assessment 1: Child Care Needs Assessment Considerations. NNCC.

Hobbs, Beverly. (1995). Final Report Of The Oregon School-Age Child Care Needs Assessment. Oregon State University Extension. Corvallis, OR.

NNCC - National Network for Child Care. (1991). Some sample survey items reprinted with permission from NNCC.

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Publication Date

March 6, 2019