Early childhood interventions in disadvantaged communities

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Three variations on the Australian supported playgroup model.

Wright A, Warren J, Burriel K and Sinnott L
International Journal of Social Welfare v. 28 no. 3 Jul 2019: 333-344
This article describes the underlying framework of the Families New South Wales supported playgroup model and explains how it has been successfully adapted for use with three different populations: mothers living with mental illness, children with disabilities, and families in economically disadvantaged areas. The supported playgroup model provides both prevention work and a 'soft' entry point for community services, while also offering parent peer support and opportunities for children to play.

Changing the life trajectories of Australia's most vulnerable children. Report no. 4, 24 months in the Early Years Education Program - assessment of the impact on children and their primary caregiversl

Tseng Y, Jordan B, Borland J, Coombs N, Cotter K, Guillou M, Hill A, Kennedy A and Jane Sheehan
Parkville, Vic. : University of Melbourne, 2019.
The Early Years Education Program is an early years care and education program in Victoria targeting children who are exposed to significant family stress, abuse, or social disadvantage. The program aims to address the consequences of family stress on children's development and ensure that at-risk and vulnerable children arrive at school developmentally equal to their peers and equipped to be successful learners. This is the fourth report from an evaluation of the program, and looks at the impacts on children and their carers after the first 2 years of enrolment. A total of 145 infants and toddlers were recruited to the EYEP trial, from 99 families engaged with family services or child protection services. Outcomes include IQ, language skills, protective factors related to resilience, social-emotional development, carer psychological distress, and the home environment. This fourth report found that the program had a significant positive impact on IQ, protective factors related to resilience, and social-emotional development. However, these varied by gender: for example, resilience was significantly improved for boys but not at all for girls.

Changing the life trajectories of Australia's most vulnerable children. Report no. 3, The Early Years Education Program (EYEP) model

Jordan B and Kennedy A
Parkville, Vic. : University of Melbourne, 2019.
The Early Years Education Program is an early years care and education program developed by the Children's Protection Society. The program targets children who are exposed to significant family stress, abuse, or social disadvantage, and aims to address the consequences of family stress on children's development and ensure that at-risk and vulnerable children arrive at school developmentally equal to their peers and equipped to be successful learners. This report describes the conceptual frameworks underpinning the model and its key components. It discusses the background of the program, early years education pedagogy, attachment theory, parent engagement and participation, wrap around services, and structures and processes to support and scaffold the work of EYEP educators. The Victorian Department of Human Services 2007 list of risk factors to healthy child development are included as an appendix.

The health effects of Sure Start

Cattan S
London : Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2019.
Sure Start is one of the biggest programs for disadvantaged preschool children in the United Kingdom, and provides integrated services with the aim of improving school readiness, health, and social and emotional development. This report reviews the program's impact on selected health outcomes, from the program's inception in 1999 to its peak in the late 2000s. It uses big data to compare the location and opening date of all Sure Start centres, area levels of disadvantage, and hospitalisation rates, childhood obesity, and mothers' mental health for children up to the age of 11. Cost-effectiveness is also considered. It finds that Sure Start reduced the likelihood of hospitalisation among children of primary school age, in particular reducing infection-related illnesses in younger children and injury-related hospitalisations at older ages, and in disadvantaged areas rather than more affluent neighbourhoods. However, no evidence was found that Sure Start improved child obesity or maternal mental health. The findings have implications for how Sure Start is implemented and developed.

Evaluation of the Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Service Program: final report

Zmudzki F, Breckenridge J, Newton B, Delaney M and Valentine K
Sydney, NSW : Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, 2019.
This report presents the findings and recommendations of an evaluation of the Integrated Domestic and Family Violence Service program (IDFVS) in New South Wales. The program provides a multi-agency, integrated and coordinated response to domestic and family violence among high-risk target groups and in targeted communities. Following identification of domestic violence by such agencies as child protection or the police, the IDFVS program then intervenes to provide ongoing practical and emotional support to adult and child victims, whether they leave or remain living with the perpetrator, and, in some sites, interventions to perpetrators. In particular, the program aims to target Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and socio-economic disadvantaged people. The State Government commissioned this evaluation to assess the value and critical elements for success of the integrated approach, explore client needs and outcomes, identify gaps in service provision and integration, evaluate cost-effectiveness, and make recommendations on ongoing implementation and program improvement. The evaluation draws on administrative data from 2015-16 and 2016-17 as well as interviews and focus groups.

Outside in: how the youth sector supports the school re-engagement of vulnerable children in Tasmania

Robinson C
Hobart, Tas. : Social Action and Research Centre, Anglicare Tasmania, 2018.
This report explores the barriers to school access and participation for vulnerable children in Tasmania, and makes recommendations aimed at strengthening the capacity of schools to transition vulnerable children back into school and hold them there. The report draws on interviews with 22 youth workers about the issues they encountered and responded to, regarding the challenges faced by young clients aged 9-14 years old, the types of school re-engagement work undertaken, the enablers and barriers to positive re-engagement outcomes, the supports they need to better do their work, and the supports for children that would most positively impact upon their access to and participation in school. The social workers highlight that many of their young clients don't know how to go to school, facing trauma, adversity, hardship, isolation, and a lack of safety, and without carers to model or support school engagement.

Changing the life trajectories of Australia's most vulnerable children. Report no. 2, The first twelve months in the Early Years Education Program - an initial assessment of the impact on children and their primary caregivers

Tseng Y, Jordan B, Borland J, Coombs N, Cotter K, Hill A and Kennedy A
Parkville, Vic. : University of Melbourne, 2018.
The Early Years Education Program is an early years care and education program in Victoria targeting children who are exposed to significant family stress, abuse, or social disadvantage. The program aims to address the consequences of family stress on children's development and ensure that at-risk and vulnerable children arrive at school developmentally equal to their peers and equipped to be successful learners. This is the second report from an evaluation of the program, and looks at the impacts on children and their carers after the first 12 months of enrolment. A total of 145 infants and toddlers were recruited to the EYEP trial, from 99 families engaged with family services or child protection services. Outcomes include IQ, language skills, protective factors related to resilience, social-emotional development, carer psychological distress, and the home environment. This second report found that the benefits of the program are encouraging but not as yet conclusive.

Rapid evidence review: the impact of poverty on life course outcomes for children, and the likely effect of increasing the adequacy of welfare benefits/ Ministry of Social Development ; prepared for the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

New Zealand. Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand. Welfare Expert Advisory Group
Wellington, N.Z. : Ministry of Social Development, 2018.
This report summarises the evidence on the impact of childhood poverty and whether increasing welfare benefits is likely to improve their outcomes. It briefly reviews the evidence on the causal effects of being exposed to poverty in childhood on outcomes in childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood, then considers the likely effect of increasing the adequacy of cash transfers on these outcomes. It also briefly reviews the evidence on the effects of exposure to poverty in adulthood on adult wellbeing. Though the evidence base on the causal impact of childhood poverty on life course outcomes is still limited, it does indicate that children and adolescents who experience poverty experience a range of worse outcomes and increases in family income from cash transfers can positively affect outcomes for both children and adults. This paper was prepared for the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, which has been established to review how the welfare system in New Zealand can be improved.

Sure Steps : trialling a family coaching model with families in public housing.

Avdagic E, Grose C, Hunter J and Wade C
Peer reviewed papers from the FRSA 2018 National Conference : be the change - leaving no one behind. Fyshwick, ACT : Family & Relationship Services Australia, 2018: 13-22
Sure Steps is a pilot family coaching program for families living in public housing, which is being trialled in Logan, Queensland. The program assists families by helping them to articulate their aspirations for themselves and their children and then supporting them to achieve these goals, using a two generational approach to helping vulnerable families. Though the pilot raised questions for further investigation it has been well-received by families. This paper describes the program and presents findings from an evaluation of the first stage of the pilot. This paper is an expanded and peer reviewed version of an abstract accepted by the conference for presentation.

KickStart Breakfasts and indicators of child health in linked administrative data

Wilson M, Hyslop D, Vette M and McMillen P
Wellington, N.Z. : Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Children, 2018.
The KickStart Breakfast programme was established in 2009 in New Zealand as a partnership between food companies Fonterra and Sanitarium, with the food companies supplying milk and cereal two days per week to free breakfast clubs run by school communities. The Government provided funding to expand the programme in 2012, with breakfasts now offered on all school days and to all schools, not just disadvantaged ones. This study was commissioned to assess the impact of the programme on two student outcomes - their bone and oral health. Using linked administrative data, it compares uptake and participation by age and school socioeconomic area, hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery, medical claims for fractures or dislocation, and outpatient and emergency department visits for orthopaedic surgery, for students aged under 13 years old. Other school health programs in New Zealand are discussed in an appendix.

How Early Head Start prevents child maltreatment

Green B
Bethesda, MD : Child Trends, 2018.
Early Head Start (EHS) is a two-generation early childhood education program in America serving low-income families from pregnancy to the child's third birthday. This paper summarises findings from a large-scale study on the role of EHS in reducing child abuse and neglect - going beyond simply asking 'Did the program work?' to ask 'How did it work?'. Child welfare agency records, from 1997?2013, for 2,794 children from 16 sites were linked to data from the original randomised controlled trial of EHS. The study investigated whether EHS participation prevented children's involvement with the child welfare system from birth to age 15, and if so, what factors might explain how the program was able to have this impact. The findings indicate that programs, like EHS, that successfully decrease family conflict and stress in a child's early years while simultaneously supporting positive, emotionally responsive parenting and child cognitive development are more likely to reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect after the program ends.

Britain's not-so-hidden hunger: a progress report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger

Forsey A
England : Feeding Britain, 2018.
In 2014 the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger presented 'Feeding Britain', a strategy to achieve zero hunger across the United Kingdom. One hundred days later, this follow up report looks at what progress has been made. It notes more recent data on the longer term pressures on budgets in poor households, expands upon fresh reports received of children complaining in some cases of' 'persistent' hunger at school, maps the 'hidden army' helping to feed the hungry, then considers some potential next steps towards establishing a way of measuring and then countering hunger in the nation.

Evaluation of the School Breakfast Clubs Program: interim report - March 2018

MacDonald F
Yarraville, Vic. : Foodbank Victoria, 2018
In 2015-2016, the Victorian Government funded Foodbank Victoria to establish breakfast clubs at 500 disadvantaged government primary school over the next four years. Research has found that such schemes not only help address hunger and associated learning problems, breakfast club attendance also has an impact on behaviour and wellbeing. Victoria University is evaluating this School Breakfast Clubs Program (SBCP) and provides an interim report each year into operations, impacts, and challenges. This report presents findings after two years of operation, and is based on preliminary data from the Foodbank baseline survey, the 2016 and 2017 annual survey, the 2016 and 2017 teacher survey, focus groups with students, and the six case-study findings. In the 2017 findings, 88% of the schools report that they are meeting the breakfast needs of their students, but 46% still report that staffing and volunteers remain the greatest barrier to the program being offered more frequently. Impacts on students include concentration, informal learning, social skills, behaviour, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, academic outcomes, attendance and punctuality, and relations with staff.

Facilitated parent-child groups as family support : a systematic literature review of supported playgroup studies.

Williams K, Berthelsen D, Viviani M and Nicholson J
Journal of Child and Family Studies v. 27 no. 8 Jul 2018: 2367-2383
This systematic review assesses the evidence on the effectiveness of supported playgroups in helping disadvantaged children and families. 34 studies were assessed: most of them from Australia. Though the studies indicated that such programs are well regarded by parents, there is little rigorous or high quality evidence and further research is required to establish the effectiveness of this intervention.

Love grows brains: optimising the development of children aged 0-3 years : a review of key concepts in research, policy and practice

Rubenstein L
Meadowbrook, Qld. : Logan Together, Griffith University, 2018.
This paper summarises findings from a literature review on promoting child development and discusses what policy actions need to take place. The review was commissioned to inform the policy action plan of 'Logan Together', a community development campaign to improve the wellbeing of disadvantaged children and their families in Logan, Queensland. Sections in the paper include: What we know about child and brain development from conception to three years of age; What parents and caregivers can do to support children's development; What communities can do to facilitate early development; What services can do to strengthen families and promote child development; What design research can do; and What public policy can do. The findings highlight a growing consensus that the search for more effective strategies to improve the lives of vulnerable young children ought to include greater attention to strengthening the capabilities of their caregivers and addressing the material needs of their families in order to assure a more appropriate balance between providing enriched experiences and facilitating protection from adversity.

Place-based collective impact: an Australian response to childhood vulnerability

Hogan D, Rubenstein L and Fry R
Parkville, Vic. : Centre for Community Child Heath, Royal Children's Hospital, 2018.
Collective impact is one type of place-based response that shows promise in addressing childhood vulnerability in communities with high levels of disadvantage. In 2016, more than 80 collective impact initiatives were estimated to be underway in Australia. This paper outlines findings from a research study into the characteristics and principles of collective impact and notes its benefits for policy, practice, and local communities.

Addressing disadvantage to optimise children's development in Australia

Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne, Vic.). Centre for Community Child Health
Parkville, Vic. : Centre for Community Child Heath, 2018.
The Changing Children's Chances project aims to identify patterns in children's experiences of disadvantage over time and quantify the long-lasting impact of disadvantage. This paper presents key findings from the project so far, regarding children's exposure to disadvantage from infancy to age 9, pathways of disadvantage, impact of disadvantage on child development, and the projected benefits of addressing disadvantage early. The project utilises a new framework of disadvantage featuring four lenses as well as data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC).

'It's like a big circle trap': discussion paper on children and young people's vulnerability

Western Australia. Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young People
Subiaco, WA : Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, 2018.
This paper provides insights into how 'vulnerability' in children and young people can be understood and addressed, drawing on the comments of young people themselves about what helps and hinders their development and wellbeing, the cumulative effects of disadvantage, and the complex interplay of factors that shape their lives. The Commissioner for Children and Young People Western Australia consults widely with children and young people about issues that affect their wellbeing, and their views are featured in this paper. Sections include: identifying children and young people who are vulnerable, drivers and enablers of development and wellbeing, constraints to development and wellbeing, understanding how vulnerability arises, trajectories of vulnerability, current challenges in addressing vulnerability, and maximising effective responses to vulnerability.

Attendance lifts achievement: building the evidence base to improve student outcomes

Smith Family (Charity)
Sydney, NSW : The Smith Family, 2018.
The Smith Family's 'Learning for Life' scholarship program supports children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds through early intervention, high expectations, and a shared agreement with families. Using data from the program, this paper investigates what factors are associated with school dropout, academic achievement, school completion, and post-school engagement in work or study, beyond financial disadvantage. This is the first Australian study to demonstrate the predictive relationships between a set of educational outcomes as young people move through school, including that school attendance and school achievement are closely related, and that students with high attendance rates or high achievement grades in early to mid high school are more likely to be engaged in work or study after leaving school than students with low attendance or below satisfactory achievement. The implications for better targeting interventions for disadvantaged young people are discussed.

Changing the life trajectories of Australia's most vulnerable children. Report no. 1, Participants in the trial of the Early Years Education Program

Tseng Y, Jordan B, Borland J, Clancy T, Coombs N, Cotter K, Hill A and Kennedy A
Parkville, Vic. : University of Melbourne, 2017.
This report describes the characteristics and family backgrounds of children taking part in the three-year trial of the Early Years Education Program (EYEP) in Victoria. EYEP is an early years care and education program targeting children who are exposed to significant family stress, abuse, or social disadvantage. The program aims to address the consequences of family stress on children's development and ensure that at-risk and vulnerable children arrive at school developmentally equal to their peers and equipped to be successful learners. A total of 145 infants and toddlers have been recruited to the trial, from 97 families engaged with family services or child protection services. Even relative to children living in low socioeconomic status households, these children are highly disadvantaged and their carers have fewer personal and social resources available to face the challenges of parenting.

Interparental relationships, conflict and the impacts of poverty: an overview

Stock L
London : Early Intervention Foundation, 2017.
This paper highlights the importance of addressing inter-parental conflict in families who are in or at risk of poverty. It summarises the findings and policy implications of three research studies by the Early Intervention Foundation: 'Inter-parental conflict and outcomes for children in the context of poverty and disadvantage', 'Exploring parental relationship support: a qualitative study', and 'Interparental relationship support services available in the UK: rapid review of the evidence'. Together, this body of research highlights how poverty and economic stress affect the quality of inter-parental relationships, which in turn impacts on child outcomes. Though there are interventions aimed at families in or at risk of poverty which are effective, the UK evidence needs to develop further.

Interparental conflict and outcomes for children in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure

Acquah D
London : Early Intervention Foundation, 2017.
A previous study explored the impact of parents' relationships - regardless of whether they are together or separated - on children's outcomes. This report extends that study by investigating inter-parental conflict in the context of poverty and economic pressure. It summarises the latest research on what is known about the links between poverty, economic pressure, family processes, and child and adolescent development, then examines the evidence on the effectiveness of interventions implemented in the United Kingdom and overseas aimed at improving inter-parental relationships and outcomes for children from families in or at risk of poverty. The findings highlight how poverty and economic stress affect the quality of inter-parental relationships, which in turn impact on child outcomes. The report concludes with some recommendations for research, policy, and practice.

Disadvantage, behaviour and cognitive outcomes: longitudinal analysis from age 5 to 16

Chowdry H and McBride T
London : Early Intervention Foundation, 2017.
This report presents findings from a British research study on children's social and emotional skills and their interaction with poverty. Using data from the British Cohort Study of children born in 1970, it examines the relationship between economic disadvantage and child behavioural and emotional problems from age 5-16 years old and also the relationship between early behavioural and emotional problems and school cognitive scores. The study identifies a range of channels through which economic disadvantage may negatively impact on children's skills and personalities as they develop through childhood and adolescence, with implications for interventions aimed at improving social mobility.

Evaluation of the Foodbank WA School Breakfast and Nutrition Education Program: statewide - Year 2 progress report

Edith Cowan University, Telethon Kids Institute, Foodbank WA, Western Australia. Dept. of Education, Western Australia. Dept. of Health, Western Australia. Dept. of Regional Development
Western Australia : Foodbank WA, 2017.
The School Breakfast and Nutrition Education Program (SBNEP) is a state government initiative to improve the nutrition and wellbeing of vulnerable children in Western Australia. It is delivered by food relief organisation Foodbank WA and - after starting with 17 schools in 2001 - now serves more than 430 schools per year and directly reaches more than 17,000 students. A three-year long evaluation is underway to program's impacts and implementation. This report presents preliminary results and findings from the second year of the evaluation. The program has two components: the Breakfast Program, which provides products for schools to deliver healthy breakfasts and emergency meals to students in need; and the 'Food Sensations' nutrition and cooking education program. The evaluation will assess the impact on children's nutrition and wellbeing, capacity for learning, and attitudes and knowledge regarding healthy food, as well as cost effectiveness, local human capacity and community cohesiveness, stakeholder satisfaction, and the factors affecting its implementation and operations.

Evaluation of the School Breakfast Clubs Program: interim report - April 2017

MacDonald F
Yarraville, Vic. : Foodbank Victoria, 2017
In 2015-2016, the Victorian Government funded Foodbank Victoria to establish breakfast clubs at 500 disadvantaged government primary school over the next four years. Research has found that such schemes not only help address hunger and associated learning problems, breakfast club attendance also has an impact on behaviour and wellbeing. Victoria University is evaluating this School Breakfast Clubs Program (SBCP) and will provides an interim report each year into operations, impacts, and challenges. This report presents findings after its first year of operation, and is based on data from the Foodbank baseline survey, the 2016 annual survey, and the 2016 teacher survey. 83% of the schools report they are meeting the breakfast needs of their students, and 97% use their program as an opportunity for informal learning.

Engaging vulnerable children and families : learning from a new model of education and care.

Fordham L and Kennedy A
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood v. 42 no. 4 Dec 2017: 30-37
The Early Years Education Program (EYEP) is an evidence-based service for at risk and developmentally vulnerable children in north east Melbourne, Victoria. It was developed by the Children's Protection Society to help disadvantaged families obtain accessible and affordable early childhood education and care (ECEC) and aims to help these children enter school developmentally equal to their non-disadvantaged peers. This article describes the elements of the program and shares some research findings about engagement and relationship building that may be helpful for universal ECEC service providers working with vulnerable families.

Promoting prenatal health and positive birth outcomes: a snapshot of state efforts.

MDRC (Organization)
New York : MDRC, 2017.
The 'Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns' initiative is studying enhanced prenatal care approaches aimed at reducing preterm births among Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program beneficiaries who are at high risk for poor birth outcomes. One component of this is the 'Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation - Strong Start' which is evaluating the effectiveness of evidence-based home visiting for improving birth outcomes, maternal and infant health, health care use, and prenatal care use among beneficiaries. This report presents findings from a qualitative substudy which provides a snapshot of state efforts to promote prenatal health and improve birth outcomes, including but not limited to home visiting. Drawing on interviews with 40 representatives from 17 states, it reviews current initiatives and efforts, the major stakeholders involved in promotion and implementation, and how the states are funding these initiatives.

Investigation into Victorian Government school expulsions

Victoria. Ombudsman
Melbourne, Vic. : Victorian Government Printer, 2017.
Every year, several hundred children are expelled from government schools in Victoria, with many having a disability, in out of home care, with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, or having come from backgrounds of significant trauma. The Ombudsman has conducted this own motion investigation into the expulsion of students from Victorian government schools, to investigate whether vulnerable or at-risk students are over-represented, whether the Department of Education is effectively addressing such issues, whether current data collection is sufficient to inform policy-making and programs, and whether the Department is monitoring informal expulsions, which occur outside the formal expulsion process. The investigation was prompted by complaints that the expulsion system was unfair or disproportionate, by research that expulsions had increased by 25% from 2014 to 2015, and by concerns over rising youth crime rates. Though exact expulsion numbers are hard to determine, about 60% of young people in the youth justice system had previously been suspended or expelled from school, and over 90% of adults in prison did not complete secondary school. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the investigation. The investigation found gaps in reports and data collection, high rates of non-compliance with Ministerial Order, and a lack of intervention.

Quality is key in early childhood education in Australia

Torii K, Fox S and Cloney D
Melbourne, Vic. : Mitchell Institute, 2017.
This policy brief highlights some of the complex barriers to lifting quality across the early childhood education system in Australia and the key policy priorities for action. The evidence suggests that the current system is not yet providing enough children with educational experiences of sufficient quality to shift their developmental trajectories, particularly children experiencing disadvantage. For example, The Effective Early Educational Experiences (E4Kids) study found significant variations in the level of quality that children in different neighbourhoods experience, with fewer high quality services in the areas that need it most.

Low income and poverty dynamics: implications for child outcomes

Warren D
Canberra, ACT : Dept. of Social Services, 2017.
Many studies have shown a strong negative association between poverty and children's developmental outcomes, but it isn't clear whether it is low income itself - or the complex set of circumstances that lead to poverty - that is responsible. This report adds to the evidence with an analysis of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). It examines the association between childhood poverty and a range of children's developmental outcomes, investigates the characteristics of children who have experienced relative income poverty and financial disadvantage, and estimates the extent to which the influence of poverty on various outcomes is an indirect influence resulting from differences in parental investment in cognitively stimulating activities or differences in parenting style. The implications for policy interventions are also briefly discussed.
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