Early childhood services

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Early childhood services in the AIFS library catalogue

Early learning communities toolkit: an evidence-informed guide to improving children's early learning outcomes

Dartington Service Design Lab, Save the Children Fund (Great Britain)
London : Save the Children UK, 2019.
This toolkit aims to improve the early learning outcomes of children growing up in poverty by facilitating partnerships in early learning communities. It provides guidance and resources and sets out an holistic, system-led approach characterised by collaboration and inclusivity, which enables partner agencies and services to understand the levers for change in their local early learning system. The toolkit is supported by an evidence review, published separately, on what matters in promoting positive early learning outcomes, what works to improve these outcomes, and the key elements necessary for the design and effective implementation of a place-based systems-change strategy.

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.

Logan's community gateways: a discussion paper

Logan Together (Organization)
Meadowbrook, Qld. : Logan Together, 2018.
Logan Together is working to develop a shared conceptual model of 'community gateways', which are also known as community hubs, community centres, and neighbourhood centres. Logan Together is a place-based community development campaign to improve the wellbeing of disadvantaged children and their families in the city of Logan, Queensland, and includes over 20 centre-based, soft-entry community gateways that enable children and families to access prevention and social inclusion activities and programs and link with more intense and specialised assistance when needed. Despite differences in the aims, funding and management of these community gateways, they share similar theoretical foundations, evaluation findings, and service delivery challenges. This paper discusses Logan Together's learnings about Community Gateways and provides information on the different community gateways in Logan, common strategies for engaging families, collaborative and co-location service models, and measurement and best practice.

Phase 1 progress report for Logan Together 2018

Clear Horizon Consulting, Logan Together (Organization), Queensland. Dept. of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, Australia. Dept. of Social Services
Meadowbrook, Qld. : Logan Together, 2018.
'Logan Together' is a place-based community development campaign to improve the wellbeing of disadvantaged children and their families in the city of Logan, Queensland. This progress report summarises the progress, activities and outcomes of Logan Together in its first three years, and assesses the extent to which is Logan Together on track to achieve its outcomes. Logan Together was established in 2015 and involves a collaboration between three tiers of government, non-government organisations, and other partners. Despite some challenges, the evaluation finds that Logan Together is on track and has clearly contributed to systemic changes and early instances of impact on families, children and parents. Outcomes include: improved engagement of certain at-risk cohorts, such as women not accessing maternity services or families experiencing tenancy difficulties; improved parental awareness of childhood development needs and milestones; improvement in kindy enrolments; and changes resulting from increased reach of services. Systems level improvements that have resulted include: cross-sector collaboration, integrated approaches to strategic delivery, innovation of new services and models, changes in practice, shifts in mindset and attitudes, and resource flows. This report also presents case studies of individual programs and services, highlights key learnings, and makes recommendations for improvement.

Improving the early learning outcomes of children growing up in poverty: a rapid review of the evidence

Axford N and Albers B
London : Save the Children UK, 2018.
Children from poorer backgrounds often start school with fewer academic skills than their better-off peers, and as they progress through school they often lag behind in their cognitive development. To help address this issue, Save the Children UK has established a collaborative project to improve policy and practice across Great Britain. As part of this project, this report reviews the latest evidence on the factors and interventions that enhance children's early learning. In particular, it first investigates the key experiences and circumstances in the family, home setting, early years setting, in the first years of primary school, and in the community that best support the learning and development of children in poverty below the age of eight years and help protect or mitigate against the impact of significant family stress or adverse childhood experiences on development. It then looks into the programmes, practices, policies, approaches and multi-agency systems that most effectively promote the early learning and development of young children in poverty, including issues of effective implementation. This review has helped inform the development of Early Learning Communities Toolkit, the next stage of the Save the Children project.

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.

The effectiveness of a sustained nurse home visiting intervention for Aboriginal infants compared with non-Aboriginal infants and with Aboriginal infants receiving usual child health care: a quasi-experimental trial - the Bulundidi Gudaga study.

Kemp L, Grace R, Comino E, Pulver L, McMahon C, Harris E, Harris M, George A and Mack H
BMC Health Services Research v. 18 3 Aug 2018: Article 599
This article describes the study protocol of a nurse-led sustained home visiting program for Aboriginal infants in Australia. Though such programs have been found to be effective in general populations, there is little evidence on their impact for Aboriginal infants. The Bulundidi Gudaga Study will compare three cohorts of families from Sydney, New South Wales, to evaluate the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Home-visiting (MECSH) program. It will assess breastfeeding time, child development at 18 months, and child body mass index and developmental outcomes at 4 years of age, comparing Aboriginal children of vulnerable mothers participating in the program, non-Aboriginal children participating in the program, and a historical cohort of families who did not receive such services. The article presents information on: the development of the MECSH program, program adaptation and implementation, research questions and hypotheses, study design, eligibility and recruitment, retention of participants half way through the trial (with children now aged 2 years old), data collection, and outcomes measured so far.

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.

Trust, empathy and time : relationship building with families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage in early childhood education and care services.

Roberts W
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood v. 42 no. 4 Dec 2017: 4-12
This article identifies some key enablers and barriers in early childhood education and care (ECEC) environments in Australia encountered by early childhood educators and professionals (ECEPs) and by the children and their families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. Improving educational outcomes can change the cycle of disadvantage for children and their families. This research asks both the providers and users of services concurrently about what they think is important and effective. This qualitative case study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to analyse semi-structured interview data gathered from 30 families and their children and 33 qualified ECEPs. The research focused on the enablers and barriers around social inclusion, access, participation and engagement at the different levels of system, service, children and their families, and ECEPs. The study found that the participant groups shared an understanding that empathy, trust and time proved key to relationship building as a starting point in addressing some of the key barriers. Social inclusion, access, participation and engagement are key to early learning success in early childhood - a time integral to overall health, wellbeing and future role in society. This study has led to the development of a new model for engagement and relationship building.

Supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability: rapid literature review

Krakouer J, Mitchell P, Trevitt J and Kochanoff A
East Melbourne, Vic. : Victorian Dept. of Education and Training, 2017.
The Victorian Auditor General's 2015 'Report on Education Transitions' found that while most children are effectively supported in their transition to primary school, children experiencing developmental vulnerability are particularly at risk of falling further behind during the transition process. A Practice Review was commissioned to identify existing programs and effective practices for supporting at risk children, with a particular focus on children aged 4-6 years old affected by trauma or intergenerational poverty, refugees, and children in out of home care. This report presents the findings of the literature review conducted to inform the practice review. It reviews the Australian and international evidence on the support needs of these at risk children, including effective strategies and programs, support for teachers and professionals, role of transdisciplinary teams, and gaps in the research. Though the evidence shows the positive effects of engagement in quality ECEC programs, children at risk of experiencing vulnerability attend formal ECEC at lower rates than their peers and tend to have more complex support needs.

Support for children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability: practice review report

Nolan A, Kilderry A, Beahan J, Lanting C and Speldewinde C
East Melbourne, Vic. : Victorian Dept. of Education and Training, 2017.
The Victorian Auditor General's 2015 'Report on Education Transitions' found that while most children are effectively supported in their transition to primary school, children experiencing developmental vulnerability are particularly at risk of falling further behind during the transition process. This Practice Review was commissioned to identify existing programs and effective practices for supporting at risk children, including children vulnerable to child abuse, neglect, and exclusion, as well as children and families affected by trauma, known to Child Protection and Family Services, at risk of intergenerational poverty, refugees, and children in out of home care. The report presents options for early childhood education and care professionals and considers costs and strategies for sustaining practice change and collaborative/transdisciplinary partnerships, and will contribute to broader reforms underway in Victoria. It draws on a service mapping exercise, a literature review, and surveys and focus groups with ECEC professionals, support staff, teachers, and principals across the state.

Cradle to Kinder: evaluation summary

Victoria. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Royal Children's Hospital (Melbourne, Vic.). Centre for Community Child Health
Melbourne : Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2017.
The Cradle to Kinder program is an intensive ante- and post-natal support service in Victoria that provides longer term intensive family and early parenting support for vulnerable young mothers and their families, commencing in pregnancy and continuing until the child reaches four years of age. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services contracted the Australian Institute of Family Studies in partnership with the Centre for Community Child Health to undertake an evaluation of this program, and it was undertaken between February 2013 and September 2015. The Department is now releasing a summary of the evaluation report to the public. The summary describes the client characteristics, summarises qualitative and quantitative findings on its impact on parents and children, and highlights the key enablers, challenges, and opportunities for improvement. The Aboriginal Cradle to Kinder program is also discussed. Overall, data from the first two years of operation suggests that the design, implementation and delivery of the Cradle to Kinder program has been successful and that the program has largely met its objectives and has been an important addition to the suite of services available to vulnerable families in Victoria.

The state of Victoria's children 2015: tipping the scales for children's positive development

Victoria. Dept. of Education and Training
Melbourne : Dept. of Education and Training, 2016.
This annual report series provides an overview of how children are faring in Victoria, serving as an evidence base to support planning and policy development. This 2015 edition takes the theme of the balance between protective factors and risk factors in the lives of children and young people. It presents the latest data on: early learning and development, quality of early childhood education and care, student achievement and engagement, physical health, wellbeing and resilience, keeping children safe from harm, parenting capability and confidence, strong families, and formal and informal supports - examining how these factors interact to affect children and the family environment, and how this evidence can inform services that work to foster positive development.

Effects of an evidence-based intervention on the Australian English language development of a vulnerable group of young Aboriginal children.

Brookes I and Tayler C
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood v. 41 no. 4 Dec 2016: 4-15
This article describes a small trial of an evidence-based intervention on very young Aboriginal children's English language development. The study was conducted in central Australia within a major Aboriginal community-controlled health service's long day care centre, utilising the 3A (Abecedarian Approach Australia) program with 11 Australian Aboriginal children aged between 23 and 36 months who are at risk of entering, or who are engaged with, the foster care system. The study arose from local concerns about how best to support very young, highly vulnerable children. The children were assessed pre-, post- and three-months following the intervention, finding a significant increase in their expressive and receptive language and their initiation of joint attention behaviours. The study illustrates the potential of this intervention to change the language growth trajectories of very young children who live in similar circumstances.

Access to effective early learning programs is not easy.

Tayler C and Cloney D
Every Child v. 22 no. 2 2016: 6-7
The E4Kids longitudinal study in Australia found that the families who are most in need of high-quality early education services have access to few - and often low-quality - programs. This article discusses this finding in more detail and briefly notes its implications for early education and care policy and planning.

Variations in the availability and quality of early childhood education and care by socioeconomic status of neighborhoods.

Cloney D, Cleveland G, Hattie J and Tayler C
Early Education and Development v. 27 no. 3 2016: 384-401
This article investigates the availability and quality of early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Australia. Drawing on the E4Kids study, it compares availability, choice, transport access, and quality of services in more advantaged and disadvantaged socioeconomic status neighborhoods. The findings indicate that attempts to lift supply and quality in disadvantaged areas will require specific and targeted policy intervention.

The state of Victoria's children 2013-14: a report on resilience and vulnerability within Victoria's children and young people

Victoria. Dept. of Education and Training
Melbourne : Dept. of Education and Training, 2016.
This annual report series provides an overview of how children are faring in Victoria, serving as an evidence base to support planning and policy development. The 2013-14 report focuses on resilience, vulnerability and disadvantage in children, young people, and their families. It examines the prevalence of vulnerability, resilience, and disadvantage; summarises the key risk and protective factors that affect children and young people's development; considers critical periods such as early childhood and the transition to school; and reviews risk and protective factors within the family environment. The report also considers the role of universal and targeted services in supporting vulnerable children and families. Although the majority of Victoria's children and young people are doing well, a notable proportion face poorer outcomes than their peers - including Aboriginal children and young people, those who live in the most disadvantaged areas, and those involved with the child protection system or who live in out of home care. Note, that though these groups are more disproportionately affected, risk factors exist for all children and all families.

Early childhood education

Elango S
Chicago, IL : Center for the Economics of Human Development, University of Chicago, 2015.
"This paper organizes and synthesizes the literature on early childhood education and childcare. In it, we go beyond meta-analysis and reanalyze primary data sources in a common framework. We consider the evidence from means-tested demonstration programs, large-scale means-tested programs and universal programs without means testing. We discuss which programs are effective and whether, and for which populations, these programs should be subsidized by governments. The evidence from high-quality demonstration programs targeted toward disadvantaged children shows beneficial effects. Returns exceed costs, even accounting for the deadweight loss of collecting taxes. When proper policy counterfactuals are constructed, Head Start has beneficial effects on disadvantaged children compared to home alternatives. Universal programs benefit disadvantaged children."--Author abstract.

Early childhood education

Elango S
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2015.
"This paper organizes and synthesizes the literature on early childhood education and childcare. In it, we go beyond meta-analysis and reanalyze primary data sources in a common framework. We consider the evidence from means-tested demonstration programs, large-scale means-tested programs and universal programs without means testing. We discuss which programs are effective and whether, and for which populations, these programs should be subsidized by governments. The evidence from high-quality demonstration programs targeted toward disadvantaged children shows beneficial effects. Returns exceed costs, even accounting for the deadweight loss of collecting taxes. When proper policy counterfactuals are constructed, Head Start has beneficial effects on disadvantaged children compared to home alternatives. Universal programs benefit disadvantaged children."--Author abstract.

Communities for Children Frankston community strategic plan 2015-2019

Anglicare Victoria
Collingwood, Vic. : Anglicare Victoria, 2015.
The 'Communities for Children (CfC)' government initiative aims to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families through place-based intervention. This document sets out the 2015-2019 strategic plan for the Frankston CfC site, which has been managed by Anglicare Victoria since 2015. The plan takes a partnership approach to improving child, family and community wellbeing by working collaboratively to overcome the challenges and difficulties of raising children within vulnerable families. The document outlines objectives, outcomes and evaluation, engagement principles, and governance, and provides data comparing Frankston's demography and socioeconomic status with the state and national averages.

Early childhood nutrition, active outdoor play and sources of information for families living in highly socially disadvantaged locations.

Myers J, Gibbons K, Arnup S, Volders E and Naughton G
Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health v. 51 no. 3 Mar 2015: 287-293
This article evaluates the impact of supported play groups on parental health knowledge and child nutrition and physical activity among disadvantaged families in Victoria. 81 parents attending supported playgroups were surveyed about children's nutrition, consumption of sweetened and packaged food, food insecurity, active outdoor play and screen time, sources of health information, use of family members and the internet for health information, and understanding of health information, with comparisons made with 331 children attending maternal and child health and childcare centres.

Does professional development of preschool teachers improve child socio-emotional outcomes?

Jensen B, Jensen P and Rasmussen A
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2015.
"From 2011 to 2013 a randomized controlled trial has been run in Danish preschools to obtain evidence on improvements of early childhood education by providing training to the preschool teachers. The purpose of the intervention is to improve child socio-emotional outcomes (measured by SDQ), especially for socially disadvantaged children. The intervention preschools received extra training of the preschool teachers, whereas control preschools did not receive any training. The results show improvements in several subscales of the SDQ scale. However, the intervention proves less beneficial for socially disadvantaged children, in particular as a consequence of unfavorable preschool characteristics."--Author abstract.

Communities for Children Frankston: evaluation report

Clear Horizon Consulting, Anglicare Victoria
Collingwood, Vic. : Anglicare Victoria, 2015.
Communities for Children (CfC) Frankston is one of 45 federal place-based early intervention and prevention program sites operating in disadvantaged areas in Australia. This report presents the evaluation of the third iteration (July 2012 to June 2014) of CfC Frankston, and focuses on the outcomes achieved for families and children during this period, the extent to which the program has influenced local approaches to service delivery, and the effectiveness of the local Facilitating Partner model. The report concludes with recommendations for future iterations of the program.

Strengthening early numeracy learning: the Let's Count program

Smith Family (Charity)
Sydney, NSW : The Smith Family, 2015.
Numeracy is a foundation skill for successful participation in our society, however, children who start school behind in maths generally stay behind. 'Let's Count' is an early mathematics program for children aged three to five, and is based on the principle that children are more likely to have positive experiences of maths during their early years if their educators, parents, and other family members also have positive attitudes towards maths. It supports parents and educators to develop the maths skills of the children in their care by noticing, exploring, and talking about numbers, counting, measurement, and patterns in their daily lives. It was piloted in 2011 in five disadvantaged communities across Australia, and has now been further expanded. This report presents an evaluation of 'Let's Count', assessing the program's impact on children's numeracy knowledge and attitudes as they transition to school and the knowledge and confidence of parents and educators.

Learning in the early years.

May C
University of Melbourne Voice v. 10 no. 1 13 Jan/9 Feb 2014
This article highlights two major studies into early childhood programs by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education that are confirming the importance of providing high quality learning experiences for disadvantaged children. In one, Professor Collette Tayler is working with the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation to implement the Abecedarian Approach Australia (3A) in its early childhood centres. Professor Tayler is also working on the E4Kids study, with early results showing that teaching within play programs, or instructional support, is lacking in Australian settings.

Insights into child care and early education: Dandenong and surrounds

Blaxland M, Adamson E, Brennan D, Jenkins B, Purcal C and Skattebol J
Sydney : Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW, 2014.
The 'Families at the Centre' a research project explores how early childhood education and care fits into the lives of low-income families across Australia. In particular, it examines the factors that contribute to low-income and disadvantaged families having lower levels of usage of ECEC services than other families. This paper outlines the findings for the greater Dandenong urban area in Victoria. The national findings are summarised in the paper 'Families at the Centre: what do low income families say about care and education for their young children?'.

Families at the Centre: what do low income families say about care and education for their young children?

Skattebol J, Blaxland M, Brennan D, Adamson E, Purcal C, Hill T, Jenkins B and Williams F
Sydney : Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW, 2014.
This paper presents a snapshot of findings from 'Families at the Centre', a research project that explores how early childhood education and care (ECEC) fits into the lives of low-income families. In particular, it examines the factors that contribute to low-income and disadvantaged families having lower levels of usage of ECEC services than other families. The project draws upon interviews over 130 parents from across Australia, and some of their stories are profiled in this paper. The paper concludes with the key learnings for policy and practice.

Recruiting and retaining families in HIPPY: final report

Roost F, McColl Jones N, Allan M and Dommers E
Fitzroy, Vic. : Brotherhood of St. Laurence, 2014.
The Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters (HIPPY) is a voluntary, 2-year, early childhood learning and parenting program designed to enhance school readiness by engaging parents as their child's first teacher. After initially being implemented within Australia on a small scale, it has now been rolled out nationally and is now in 75 disadvantaged communities. Data provided by HIPPY Australia indicates a retention rate of 72%, which appears to be within the average retention range for international HIPPY programs as well as home visiting programs in general. This report was commissioned to investigate how HIPPY recruitment and retention rates could be improved. It involved focus groups with 49 HIPPY coordinators, regarding their views on HIPPY program design and implementation, as well as site visits and a review of the international literature.

Gateways to two generations: the potential for early childhood programs and partnerships to support children and parents together.

Washington, D.C. : Aspen Institute, 2014
This paper investigates two generation approaches to improve the lives of parents and children. It explores and promotes early childhood programs as gateways for two generation approaches that support both children and parents.

Family centred practice in early childhood settings.

Scott D
Arney, Fiona, ed. Scott, Dorothy, ed. Working with vulnerable families : a partnership approach. 2nd ed. Port Melbourne, Vic. : Cambridge University Press, 2013 9781107610668: 42-56
Written for both students and practitioners, this book provides an introduction to family-centred practice in Australia. This chapter looks at developments in family centred practice aimed at vulnerable children in early childhood settings. It discusses the development of innovative early childhood services in Australia and profiles four current programs: the first time parents groups of the Victorian Maternal and Child Health Service; culturally competent services for refugee and migrant families provided by VICSEG New Futures; the Parent Resource Program of SDN Children's Services; and the Pal outreach program in Napranum, Far North Queensland. These exemplar programs highlight common principles applicable to all early childhood settings.
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