Having a current, high quality Community Assessment (or Community Assessment update) to inform your Designation Renewal System (DRS) proposal is a significant asset. There is strong alignment between data that must be reported in your program’s Community Assessment and that which is required as part of a DRS proposal (per the most recent round of DRS Funding Opportunity announcements (FOAs)).

In today’s blog post we share some of our go-to data sources that may be useful for conducting or updating a Community Assessment and for gathering data to inform your DRS proposal. From state to state and county to county you might have other data sources that are helpful and relevant, so be sure to explore data sources that may be unique to your particular program. There are many data sources to inform a strong Community Assessment and these are just a few to help get you started!

U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder – Data from the U.S. Census Bureau covers a wide rate of topics and is broken down by state, county, city/town, and zip code. Here you will find population by age, race and ethnicity, characteristics of families (e.g., language, housing), poverty statistics, and employment/industry and education information. There are many, many other data points available in FactFinder!

Kids Count Data Center – Data varies by state, and depending on your state and the particular data point you may be able to drill down to county, school district, city, and/or congressional district. Here, you may find information about poverty, health, mental health, birth outcomes, education, foster care, homelessness, child abuse and neglect, and other factors impacting the lives of children and families.

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps – This resource includes a wealth of information – by state and county – about health factors, ranked by county. This includes health outcomes (length and quality of life), health behaviors (e.g., obesity, teen births, food insecurity), clinical care, social and economic factors (e.g., high school graduation, unemployment), and physical environment (e.g., severe housing problems). You can see how the county where you provide services compares to the rest of your state.

When researching data to inform your Community Assessment or DRS proposal be sure to find the data most relevant to your service area. For example, if your service area is a county, try as often as possible to drill down to county-level data. At times, it might be easiest to find state level data, and while that data may be useful it is only part of the picture. Find the richest data to make the most compelling case for the need for Head Start/Early Head Start services.

If while gathering data you find difficulty locating data you need – ask. We recommend reaching out to state or local partners to find out if they have data they would be willing to share. For example, non-profit hospitals often conduct community health needs assessments on their own. School districts might have reports on key characteristics of children and families. Non-profit agencies may have information about foster care, homelessness, or other factors impacting families in your service area. Check with your local or county health department to see what reports they have available. Leveraging existing resources in your service area will also help to ensure your data is aligned and you have a sense of others’ reflections about community needs and priorities. Check out other tips and resources for a strong Community Assessment.

If you need assistance conducting or updating a Community Assessment to inform your DRS proposal, Foundations for Families can help. If you’re interested to complete a full Community Assessment in advance of DRS, now is the time to begin. We offer this service either independently or in combination with grant writing services. Please be in touch to explore what the right level of support is for your program. We’ll consider the current status of your program’s Community Assessment as well as the timing of DRS.

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