This Policy brief explores what makes community-based services for children and families effective. It identifies interpersonal and structural features that characterise effective services, and shows that how services are delivered is as important as what is delivered.
Why is this issue important?
Concern about the effectiveness of services for young children and families is based upon a range of factors. The evidence for the importance of the early years, and the difficulty in breaking free from adverse circumstances and poor developmental trajectories established during this period (CCCH, Policy Brief 1, 2006a), supports the need for effective services to be available to young children and their families. Without such help, many children who start off poorly will struggle to do well later. There are signs of worsening or unacceptably poor health and well-being outcomes among young people (CCCH, Policy Brief 4, 2006b; Keating & Hertzman, 1999; Stanley et al, 2005).
These poor outcomes have associated costs that are a significant drain on public resources (Heckman, Kids First Foundation, 2003). To counteract these adverse effects, services need to be as effective and efficient as possible. They need to be non-stigmatising and readily accessible by hard-to-reach families so that emerging problems can be addressed before they become acute.