Authors as Published

Novella J. Ruffin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Extension Child Development Specialist, Virginia State University, Virginia Dept. of Education Licensed School Psychologist and NCSP

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

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?YesNo
2. If yes, please complete the reminder of the survey.
3. Are you currently using child care services?YesNo
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:
# of Children______________________
Age(s) of Children______________________
Day Care Center______________________
Family Care Center______________________
Provider in my own Home______________________
Care by family members______________________
After School Care______________________
Care by older sibling______________________
Other: ___________________________________________________________________
6.Are you satisfied with your current child care arrangements?YesNo
If no, please explain:
7. If you do not utilize child care services, what prevents you from using services?
Hours of Operation___________
Happy with current provider___________
Other: (please explain).___________
8.To help assess funding needs, please indicate your household gross salary range.
# of people in house:___________
below- $20,000___________
over -50,000___________
9. Is your household headed by a two-parent household or a single parent household?
Please check:Single parent ___________Two parent ___________
10.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___________
11. Please check one in each column for the type of care you USE and the type of care you PREFER.
 Type of Care I
Use Most of the
Type of Care I
Would Prefer
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______________________
12. Please check the days you need child care. Check all that apply.
a. Monday-Friday___________
b. Snow days, holidays, summer breaks___________
c. Other___________
13. 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___________
14. 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___________
15.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.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

May 1, 2009