Effective prevention and early intervention is possibly the most promising strategy for changing the trajectories of children. There is clear evidence that children’s life chances are influenced by their families and communities and that they are able to be changed for the better. Improving the wellbeing of children, young people and families at population-level requires flexible and responsive systems that are equipped to deliver preventive interventions and respond effectively early to emerging issues and challenges. There is a strong and growing evidence-base that supports the effectiveness of many prevention and early intervention programs and approaches, and consistent evidence about the features of service systems that contribute to poorer outcomes.
This paper has used available research to synthesise the factors that promote positive child development and to highlight factors that enable effective prevention and early intervention at a system-wide level. Current research provides strong theoretical underpinnings and directions for building systems that reflect the best available evidence about what children, young people and families require to enable them to thrive. The balance of evidence would suggest that there is no single model or ‘silver bullet’. Instead, the aim must be agile and responsive system comprised of cultures, structures and processes that produce service responses tailored to the needs and circumstances of families and communities; systems underpinned by robust accountability and governance mechanisms that enable adaptation and problem-solving; and an explicit focus on delivering interventions that are grounded in evidence.