Community supports for parents of young children: A needs assessment

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Leclair, Leanne
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Manitoba Parent-Child Coalitions are tasked with identifying community support needs and priorities for parents with young children and developing a sustainable plan for addressing needs. The methods used to establish community needs and priorities vary considerably. Use of a systematic participatory needs assessment (NA) process such as the Concerns Report Method (CRM) could provide communities with important information about parents’ community support needs while involving parents in the decision-making process. The CRM uses a mixed methods exploratory sequential research design. Phase 1 of the CRM involved the use of several qualitative methods: a document review, interviews and focus groups with parents (N=29) and service providers (N=11). Phase 1 results were used to develop a Community Concerns Report Survey for parents (N=319) and service providers (N=47) used in Phase 2. Logistic regression helped to determine the family characteristics that were associated with parent perceived community support needs. Existing community data revealed important socioeconomic differences across neighbourhoods, but the Early Development Instrument showed that kindergarten children from all socioeconomic backgrounds were not ready for school. Four themes emerged from the interviews and focus groups: 1) Availability of/ access to community supports, 2) Barriers and facilitators to participation, 3) Parent and child transition periods, and 4) Making connections with parents/ service providers. The survey results extended our understanding of these issues and showed that parents and service providers prioritized community support needs differently but also had shared areas of concern. Finally, very few of the family characteristics were associated with parent perceived needs. Despite only examining the first two phases of the CRM, this study adds to the body of literature on use of the CRM in the context of identifying the community support needs of parents with young children. The NA process highlighted the strengths and limitations of the different methods used and the CRM as a methodology in determining community support needs. As well, the challenges associated with reconciling the different findings were discussed. Coalitions seeking to engage different stakeholders in a NA process should consider using the CRM to identify community support needs and priorities.
parents, service providers, concerns report method, perceived need