The environmental factors that help shape a young child’s daily life can have a profound influence on their development. The good news is you can quickly gather vital information about a child’s home environment with the free Environmental Screening Questionnaire (ESQ™), the latest screening tool from the trusted child development experts behind ASQ®.

Designed to be completed in just 10 to 15 minutes by parents or caregivers of children ages birth to age 6, the 30-item ESQ screener identifies possible risk factors in six key areas that might affect a family’s ability to support healthy child development: education and employment, housing, child and family health, economics and finances, family life, and community. ASQ co-developers and ESQ creators Jane Squires, Ph.D., and Diane Bricker, Ph.D., talk about settings where the ESQ would be most useful, what steps have been taken to ensure the ESQ is culturally sensitive, and more.

What settings do you envision the Environmental Screening Questionnaire (ESQ) being most useful in? For example, would ESQ be better for a home visiting program than a childcare center or pediatric office?

ESQ would be a useful tool in any setting, as long as staff are prepared to use it correctly and can provide needed support for a family and/or appropriate referrals. Home visitors often have a longer time to interact with families and thus they can spend time interviewing the family and providing guidance and support both during and after completion of ESQ. If used in a child care or clinic setting, there will need to be providers who can provide support to families, especially during the referral process.

You can find more information and resources for making referrals on the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Is ESQ best used with families for whom there are known concerns? Or can it be used with all families, regardless of whether or not there are existing concerns?

The screening tool can be used with any family—unless it is clear the family has no environmental challenges. Also, it’s important to note that for families who feel that they don’t need assistance or feel that the ESQ is invasive, then ESQ should not be used. Completing ESQ should always be optional for families.

ESQ’s age range is families of children ages birth through 6 years. Do you think it could be useful for families with children who are older than 6 and/or with pregnant mothers?

Because ESQ is focused broadly on the family and environment, we do think ESQ could be a useful tool when working with families with older children as well as pregnant mothers.

Is there a suggested frequency for conducting ESQ screenings?

The frequency should depend on family need and agency resources. It might be helpful for agencies to have families complete it yearly to see if the family’s needs are being met and if other needs have surfaced since the last time they filled it out. There is a space on the ESQ Referral Summary sheet to indicate a future rescreen date so that programs can keep track of screenings.

What is the suggested method for completing ESQ? Should a parent fill it out without a professional present? Or, should it be completed while a parent and professional are together?

We recommend ESQ be completed using an interview format; however, not all agencies will have the resources to do this with all families. Thus, it is okay to gather the information in other ways, such as a family completing it on their own and returning it to the program. Regardless of the method of completion, adequate support should be available to families during and after completion regarding items that are concerns to them and with which they would like assistance.

How should ESQ be completed for a family who has multiple households; for example, due to divorce?

Depending on the family’s situation, it might be useful to collect information from both parents if they are separated or living in different households. The environmental strengths and risks in each household may differ so gathering information from both parents can help identify any potential concerns—and help professionals provide more accurate resources and referrals.

ESQ asks about some personal topics. Have any precautions been taken to ensure that the tool is culturally sensitive and appropriate for use with marginalized communities?

It is important to know that the tool does ask sensitive questions. That is the reason why staff members who use the tool should be well prepared to deal with a range of sensitive topics. And, staff should have appropriate referral options available for families.

It is also recommended that agencies have a committee that can review the questions before the ESQ is administered so that they can modify or omit any items they feel would be culturally insensitive. As with most tools, ESQ may need modifications for certain families and certain communities.


Used in conjunction with ASQ, the free ESQ screener will allow you to build the most complete picture of all the potential influences on a child’s development, and help ensure that the services you provide are targeted where families need them most. For more information, including a look at sample ESQ questionnaires in English and Spanish, click here.

Interested in a comprehensive overview of the ESQ? Check out the recorded version of an introductory ESQ webinar presented by Drs. Squires and Bricker—you’ll get tips and strategies for administering the ESQ either virtually or in-person, learn how ESQ results can be used to better support families, and more.


Get a fuller picture of each family’s strengths and needs—and guide your decision-making about next steps—with the newest tool form the developers of the ASQ screeners. Learn more, prepare your staff for use of the tool, and download it for free today!


  • Children Engaged in the Classroom

    What ASQ Users are Saying

    “What I love about the ASQ is that it allows our staff to catch delays quickly and allows us to get our clients the early intervention programs that they sometimes need. In many cases [ASQ] helps us catch children up before they start kindergarten, therefore providing children with the start that they deserve.

    Sharon Gee, Supervisor, Healthy Families Niagara