10 Years On: Global Progress & Delay in Ending Violence against Children – The Rhetoric & the Reality

Youth Justice, Early years, Family Violence

The International NGO Council on Violence against Children has published a report focused on violence that affects children across the globe. This report comments on the many forms of violence perpetrated against children, including child detention rates, child marriage, and physical violence and punishment. It calls on the global community to address the root causes of violence and promote a culture of respect for the rights of the child.

A critical review of the early childhood literature

Early years

AIFS has produced a critical review of the leading evidence on the value of preschool for three year olds, Indigenous children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The report includes literature from Australia, as well as the UK, US, Canada and Europe. The international evidence has consistently shown that the most disadvantaged children have the most to gain from high quality early childhood programs. The review showcases seven high quality early childhood programs that have been rigorously evaluated and offer opportunities to promote healthy child development in Australia.

A review of the literature on social and emotional learning for students ages 3–8: Characteristics of effective social and emotional learning programs

Education, Early years

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process by which children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, maintain relationships, and make responsible decisions. This series of four reports explores the benefits of SEL in the early years, and identifies the characteristics of SEL interventions that lead to positive outcomes in the school environment. It provides helpful strategies for school staff and teachers to foster a positive classroom environment and support social and emotional competence in their students.

ANROWS Research Summary: The impacts of domestic and family violence on children

Early years, Family Violence, Young People, Report

This summary is designed for practitioners and policy-makers who want to know more about ANROWS research on the impacts of domestic and family violence (DFV) on children. It outlines the major issues found in ANROWS research relevant to children, the factors preventing effective service delivery and the policy and practice changes recommended by the researchers. It concludes with future research directions.

Australian children growing up with opportunity

Early years

This paper discusses trends related to access to formal childcare in Australia and the impact that attendance has on childhood development. It focuses on the impacts of childcare and preschool for disadvantaged groups in particular, noting the evidence that childcare may have greater positive impacts on child outcomes for disadvantaged groups. Nonetheless, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are much less likely to access formal childcare. The article provides recommendations to improve policy and reduce inequality of opportunity.

Being Present: An exploratory study on the use of mindfulness in early childhood

Early years, Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing

This small US study looks at the types of mindfulness practices currently being used in an early childhood education setting to promote a sense of wellbeing in children. Many teachers reported that they use meditation and mindfulness when the children in their classroom were restless or stressed. The majority of teachers included in the study reported that using mindfulness practices resulted in positive behavioural and physical outcomes in their early childhood classrooms.

Bridging the divide: Supporting children and young people in their middle years

Early years, Report

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand (Good Shepherd) undertook this research to highlight some of the unique challenges faced by children and young people in their ‘middle years’ (between the ages of 8 – 12 years). The middle years are a critical time of development and change. Children can face difficulties transitioning from primary to high school, caring for parents or younger siblings, being subject to inappropriate sexualisation and sexual exploitation, and being denied the opportunity to have meaningful input into decisions that affect their lives. Good Shepherd makes recommendations to government, schools and the community sector to ensure that we are better able to meet the needs of children and young people in their middle years.

Can early childhood interventions decrease inequality of economic opportunity?

Early years, Mental Health

This article published in the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, investigates whether expanding access to early child education and care (ECEC) will reduce economic inequality later in life. The evidence suggests that multiple life domains, including academic achievement, behaviour, and mental health, can be improved if children are exposed to quality early childhood education.

Changes to the National Quality Framework

Education, Early years

The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has published an information sheet outlining agreed changes to the National Quality Framework (NQF) as part of the 2014 Review of the National Partnership Agreement on the National Quality Agenda for Early Childhood Education and Care. It includes a summary table of the proposals and final decisions by Ministers. Most changes commenced on 1 October 2017 in all states and territories.

Child sexual abuse in institutional contexts: The reliability of police data, nature and allegations reported to police, and factors driving reporting rates

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

This research undertaken for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse aims to determine the nature of reports to police concerning institutional child sexual abuse (ICSA), and the drivers behind different reporting rates in different Australian jurisdictions. Findings included that ICSA accounts for approximately 5% of all child sexual abuse in all jurisdictions, for male and female victims; and schools were overwhelmingly the most common institutional context for reported ICSA.

Childcare Use and Its Role in Indigenous Child Development: Evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children in Australia

Education, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Early years

This paper uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children to map patterns of childcare use and its effects on the learning and development of Indigenous children. The authors maintain that relatively disadvantaged children might benefit from attending childcare, but suggests that future research should investigate whether the quality of early childhood education is associated with positive cognitive outcomes for Indigenous children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The NSW Legislative Council has released a report on childhood overweight and obesity. It details the structural factors that help determine a child’s weight, and provides compelling recommendations related to urban planning, cost and accessibility of organised sport and food labelling.

The latest issue of Children Australia includes a range of articles about social work practice and children experiencing vulnerability, including articles about the leadership of young people in family violence prevention, the engagement of refugee families in early childhood services, and the therapeutic supports required for child to recover from family violence.

Children’s television viewing and multi-screen behaviour: Analysis of 2005–16

Early years, Families and parenting

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released a report looking at Children’s television viewing and multi-screen behaviour. It provides insights into viewing practices and habits of Australian children, and information about parental attitudes, including content concerns. Parents are finding it increasingly difficult to monitor or limit their children’s viewing, as the number of media devices they have access to increase.

Comparative perspectives on family day care: Structure, regulation and research gaps

Education, Early years, Collaboration

Family Day Care Australia (FDCA) commissioned the Social Policy Research Centre to examine the regulations and funding processes surrounding family day care in New Zealand and the UK. By examining international examples of funding and regulation for ECEC, Australia can gain insight into how it can design its own family day care services to be more flexible and of a higher quality. The report notes a lack of information available about the kinds of integrated and innovative practices currently in place in Australia. In light of this, the report proposes a research agenda for Australian family day care.

This resource sheet is designed to inform service providers and practitioners about corporal punishment research and legislation. It outlines recent research literature (from 2000 to 2016) and discusses the use and impact of corporal punishment on children. It explores the factors that influence the use of corporal punishment and provides a summary of alternative disciplinary techniques. Finally, it summarises current legislation regarding the use of corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children in Australia.

Effects of child maltreatment, cumulative victimisation experiences, and proximal life stress on adult crime and antisocial behaviour

Early years, Child maltreatment

New research funded by the US Department of Justice seeks to understand the processes through which child abuse leads to antisocial and criminal behaviour in later life. Participants were drawn from the Lehigh Longitudinal Study, one of the longest running national studies examining the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect. Results showed that childhood abuse increased the risk of adulthood crime by promoting antisocial behaviour during childhood and adolescence, followed by the formation of relationships with antisocial partners and peers in adulthood.

Estimation of National, Regional, and Global Prevalence of Alcohol Use During Pregnancy and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Early years, Families and parenting, Alcohol and Other Drugs

This research project aimed to estimate the global prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the general population. It finds that alcohol use during pregnancy is relatively common and that Europe has particularly high rates of women who consume alcohol during pregnancy, and consequently, the highest rate of FAS. The paper provides a discussion of the social and cultural factors that may influence the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy, and suggests that more effective prevention strategies be targeted towards particular at-risk populations.

Financing mechanisms for reducing adversity and enhancing resilience through implementation of primary prevention

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

Funding for primary prevention initiatives reducing childhood adversity is highly fragmented across multiple government agencies and the private and philanthropic sectors. This paper reviews the existing mechanisms for funding interventions to reduce adverse childhood experiences and explores emerging and innovative financing methods, such as pay-for-success contracts.

These publications from the Department of Health and Human Services share the complexities of work with children, youth and families and some of the innovative practice approaches being used to address them. This is an annual publication shining a spotlight on examples of good practice and the variety of practice approaches available.

Helping young children who have experienced trauma: Policies and strategies for early care and education

Education, Early years, Mental Health

This report from Child Trends and the National Center for Children in Poverty includes a review of the prevalence of early childhood trauma in the US and its effects on the child, family and wider society. The report discusses promising strategies for ECEC providers that aim to support children who have experienced trauma, and presents a number of recommendations for policymakers. It highlights the need to develop an integrated, trauma-informed culture for young children.

Helping young children who have experienced trauma: Policies and strategies for early care and education

Education, Youth Justice, Early years, Mental Health, Safety and wellbeing, Practice Tool

This National Centre for Children in Poverty (NCCP) paper presents an overview of early childhood trauma, the impact it has on young children and brain development and promising strategies for trauma-informed care in early care and education. Along with high quality programming, strong policy is crucial to meeting the emotional and early learning needs of children who have experienced trauma. The NCCP makes a series of recommendations to better support access to quality, trauma-informed early care and education.

Save the Children has written a short article on how to have open and honest discussions with children about what it means to be a refugee or an asylum seeker. It provides facts and figures, video clips and other resources that can be used to start the conversation about refugee and asylum seeker journeys.

Infant-led Research: Privileging Space to See, Hear, and Consider the Subjective Experience of the Infant

Early years, Journal article

In this article, Wendy Bunston, Margarita Frederico and Mary Whiteside present a novel “infant-led” qualitative research methodology which foregrounds the subjective experiences of infants, rather than those their parents and carers. This methodology is nonintrusive and has much to offer social workers working with infants in high risk situations in community, health, and mental health settings.

Instrumental learning and cognitive flexibility processes are impaired in children exposed to early life stress

Early years, Mental Health

This research project aims to understand the impact of severe early stress exposure on learning and cognitive flexibility during adolescence. The results show that adolescents with histories of early stress were impaired in both instrumental learning and cognitive flexibility. Early stress can also have a profound impact on learning, attention and working memory. These finding may be used to guide early intervention programs with at-risk youth.

Maternal age and family circumstances of firstborn children

Early years, Families and parenting

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) Annual Statistical Report investigates whether maternal age influences the financial and parenting experiences of the family across the child’s first 10 years of life. Women having their first child in their early 20s or teenage years were more likely than those having their first child later in life, to experience disadvantage. Areas of increased disadvantage included living without a partner, low income and a higher chance of unemployment.

NHMRC report on the evidence: Promoting social and emotional development and wellbeing of infants in pregnancy and the first year of life

Early years, Families and parenting, Mental Health

The National Health and Medical Research Council presents an analysis of the programs and services offered to parents of young babies, provided in pregnancy or the first year of life. The paper is particularly interested in those interventions that influence infant social and emotional wellbeing. The report claims that education and support programs for parents, and programs, designed to foster a healthy bond between baby and parent, have shown encouraging results. However, there is need for further research to identify which programs are most effective in giving babies the best start in their emotional and social life.

Playgroups in Australia: Building the evidence base

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

This suite of resources is intended to assist in the development of high-quality and consistent playgroups. It outlines nine key principles underpinning high quality playgroups. They provide an evidence-informed framework with which playgroups can be developed based on the local families’ and community’s needs. Most importantly, playgroups should be child-focused, child-inclusive and developmentally appropriate.

Presentation @ OPEN Symposium 2019 – Effectiveness outcomes for young children and mothers in an intensive service for vulnerable families

Early years, Families and parenting, Conference presentation

In this presentation, Renee O'Donnell (Monash University) and Andrea Dunbar (MacKillop Family Services) discussed their evaluation of the Cradle to Kinder program in three locations across Victoria. Cradle to Kinder is an intensive maternal support program for disadvantaged young mothers (under 25 years), designed to support positive parenting and improve child safety and developmental outcomes in families where there is an elevated risk of child removal.

Prevention of child abuse and neglect

Early years

Produced in partnership with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), this Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) resource provides an overview of prevention of child abuse and neglect, with a focus on primary prevention. In particular, it details actions that can be undertaken at the community level to prevent child abuse and neglect before it happens.

Prioritising Possibilities for Child and Family Health: An Agenda to Address Adverse Childhood Experiences and Foster the Social and Emotional Roots of Well-being in Pediatrics

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

This paper takes a comprehensive look at the evidence relating to the negative health effects of adverse childhood experiences. Findings highlight the central role of positive family relationships, promoting resilience and establishing community partnerships in addressing adverse childhood experiences. The paper calls on key decision-makers, practitioners and community members to refocus on relationships and the regulation of emotion as a means of achieving overall health and wellbeing for children.

Problematic and harmful sexual behaviours of children in schools

Education, Early years

The Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse has released the Report of Case Study 45 -Problematic and harmful sexual behaviours of children in schools. The institutions publicly examined in this case were Trinity Grammar School, The King’s School and Shalom Christian College. The report inquired into the systems, policies, procedures and practices for responding to allegations of problematic or harmful sexual behaviours of children within those schools.

Promoting social and emotional learning in preschool: programs and practices that work

Education, Early years

In this brief, Pennsylvania State University summarises what is known about effective preschool social-emotional learning (SEL) programs and practices based on recent research studies. The studies presented in the brief support the use of SEL programs in preschool, with evidence of positive impacts on children’s development of SEL skills, their engagement with learning, interpersonal relationships and educational achievement. The paper identifies critical factors for success, such as supportive teacher-child interactions and effective engagement with parents.

Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisations

Early years, Young People

This practitioner resource considers the nature and benefits of meaningful youth participation in child safety measures. It looks at tools and strategies that can help practitioners to talk to children about their own safety and some of the ways that institutions can respond. The resource highlights the need for organisation-wide commitment to children's participation for this to be successful.

In this ‘Kids Count’ policy report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of children, opportunity, race and immigration. It explores the significant barriers facing children in immigrant families, and offers recommendations to help children in immigrant families gain the stability, economic resources and opportunities they need to thrive. The 2017 policy report considers the early care and education needs of children in immigrant families, and the importance of keeping the family together.

Responding to adverse childhood experiences with HOPE: health outcomes from positive experiences

Early years, Safety and wellbeing

This article introduces a framework called “HOPE: Health Outcomes From Positive Experiences.” The HOPE framework focuses on the need to actively promote positive childhood experiences that contribute to child wellbeing and development. The data presented demonstrates the powerful contribution of positive relationships and experiences to the development of healthy children.

Socioeconomic gaps in early childhood experiences: 1998 to 2010

Education, Early years, low income

Using two nationally representative data sets, this study compares the early life experiences of kindergarteners in 1998 and 2010 in the United States. The study finds that young children in the 2010 cohort were exposed to more books and reading in the home, have more access to educational games on computers, and engage more with their parents, both inside and outside of the home, than the 1990 cohort. This is true for both lower-income and higher-income families.

This keynote by Tom McBride was given at an event co-hosted by CFECFW and Berry Street. It discusses the formation of the Early Intervention Foundation in the UK, and gives an overview of their purpose, evidence standards and how they approach early intervention work across a range of areas.

The first thousand days: An evidence paper

Early years

A report by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute examines the impact of early experiences on different aspects of development and functioning, including health and wellbeing, mental health, social functioning and cognitive development. The report finds disadvantage can be passed down through the generations at a cellular level. New evidence included in the report underscores the significance of the first thousand days, and of the need to reform policies, practices and systems in response.

Unpacking the theory and practice of system change

Early years, Collaboration, Conference presentation

These webinar slides, developed by Kerry Graham for ARACY, outline the theory and practice of system change - including why it is needed and where are the best points to intervene. While this webinar was held in preparation for the 2020 National Early Years summit, the slides will provide a useful introduction to the key concepts of systems change (incorporating some great explanatory images) for a wider audience in child and family services. 

Vulnerable birth mothers and recurrent care proceedings

Early years

The Nuffield Foundation has published a summary report looking at vulnerable birth mothers in England who have had their children repeatedly removed from their care. Findings found that of the sample of 354 mothers: 66% of mothers had experienced neglect in their childhood; 52% suffered physical abuse; 53% were sexually abused and 54% of the mothers had spent time in out of home care as a child. More often than not, these mothers have experienced significant and overlapping adverse experiences in their own childhoods.

What is known about the placement and outcomes of siblings in foster care: An international literature review

Early years, Out of Home Care (OOHC)

This report has been published by the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education, University of Oxford. It synthesises the findings from studies that have examined factors associated with the decisions to place children together with, or apart from, siblings. It considers the evidence of a range of outcomes for joint or separate foster placements.