Review of the evidence base in relation to early childhood approaches to support children in highly disadvantaged communities for the Children’s Ground Project

3 Oct 2011

The Children’s Ground project aims to develop a place-based approach to support children and their families in highly disadvantaged communities. The project approach is informed by research and evidence, recognising the multiple and multi-level influences on children’s development and the need to support the role of communities in improving outcomes for children.

The review of the evidence base, undertaken by the Centre for Community Child Health in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute, begins by outlining the changing social and environmental conditions and the influence of these changes on vulnerable children and families. The report then discusses actions undertaken to address these challenges and the reasons why these actions have failed. Next, key factors enabling optimal outcomes for children and contemporary Australian and international evidence-based interventions and approaches that support vulnerable children are examined. The review concludes by summarising the research on the financial and social costs of doing nothing to intervene and improve outcomes for children.

In summary, the review endorses the development of a place-based approach with a number of key strategies that simultaneously address families’ immediate needs for support (the foreground factors) and the broader conditions under which families are raising young children (the background factors). The approach needs to promote wrap around, integrated services that are responsive to and driven by the community. Focus must also be given to how services are delivered rather than what is delivered. In order to implement the approach, it is critical that a robust governance structure or entity capable of coordinating and supporting the many stakeholders and services involved is established and a long-term financial and policy commitment is made.

Key messages encapsulating broad themes from the literature, supported by concluding statements, have been developed to enable clear communication to a variety of audiences. 

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