In 2019, the Needs Assessment identified and analyzed existing early childhood data and reports and collected new data from a variety of sources. The Needs Assessment team gathered state, regional, and local data by conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews with Nebraska stakeholders, including families, childcare providers, and statewide leaders.
In this first year of the renewal grant, the Needs Assessment has explored questions that were not previously addressed and begun examining how needs have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the Preschool Development Renewal Grant allowed the continuation of assessment and the search for opportunities in Nebraska's birth to five systems. In March and August 2020, the Buffet Early Child Institute conducted two surveys of childcare providers in Nebraska to assess the economic, health, and personal challenges impacting their ability to care for and educate young children during the pandemic. Results from these surveys highlight the acute need for additional support to childcare providers. These findings have been shared with a broad audience across the state, including state legislators considering an Interim study to assess the fiscal and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nebraska's early childhood care and education system. A third survey, planned for Spring 2021, will provide further insight on the impact of the ongoing pandemic on Nebraska’s childcare providers.
In collaboration with the Nebraska Preschool Development Grant project leads, the Needs Assessment team collected information to better understand and address the needs and gaps in Nebraska's birth to five systems. Thirteen project leads responded to this inquiry, and a few trends emerged in their responses. They are interested in:
- more in-depth information about families' needs and perspectives, from Black and African American, Hispanic and Latinx, Native American and American Indian, Refugees and immigrants, families of children with disabilities, families experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, and families providing foster care.
- processes to monitor closures, changes in enrollment, and financial concerns of childcare providers.
- information to identify strengths and areas for improvement in coaching and professional learning for early childhood professionals.
This feedback will guide the analysis of existing data and plans for new data collection, including a series of in-depth focus groups with families across Nebraska, which will begin in February 2021.
Needs Assessment Guiding Principles
The statewide needs assessment for Nebraska’s Preschool Development Grant is grounded in four guiding principles:
1. Focus on families
- Allow families across Nebraska to inform the state about the strengths and challenges in their communities
- Address what services are available and what families encounter when they look for and receive services
2. Focus on communities
- Collect data from communities across Nebraska to capture the availability of services and families' needs at regional and local levels, with the ability to aggregate findings at the statewide level.
3. Build on existing work
- Utilize existing assessments, reports, surveys, and data to quantify Nebraska's early childhood system's successes and opportunities.
4. Engage with stakeholders throughout Nebraska.