Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis, dosage, and early learning

Education

The Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology has published a US study documenting the benefits of ‘academic’ preschool programs that emphasise language, pre-literacy and math concepts. The benefits were sustained throughout kindergarten, and were especially strong for African-American children attending at least 20 hours per week. This study offers important insights into the ideal amount of time spent in preschool, and the types of classroom activities that may support cognitive development.

Do childhood experiences of parental separation lead to homelessness?

This Melbourne Institute paper examines the relationship between parental separation and homelessness using Journey’s Home (JH), a dataset of disadvantaged Australians. The study finds a substantial causal effect between parental separation and entry into homelessness, particularly if the separation occurred before the respondent was 12 years old. The findings suggest that adolescent girls are more robust to parental separations than adolescent boys and that the effects of parental separations are larger when the parents were formally married.

Does money affect children’s outcomes? An update

A report by the London School of Economics provides an update to Does Money Affect Children’s Outcomes? A Systematic Review (2013). It provides further supporting evidence that money in itself is important for children’s cognitive development, physical health and educational achievement, distinct from other factors such as parental education. The authors found that poorer children have worse outcomes in part because they are poor and not only because of other factors that are associated with low income. The study found that reducing income poverty and inequality is likely to have a significant impact on children’s environment and on their development.

A new report published by ANROWS examines the impact of inter-parental conflict (IPC) and domestic and family violence (DFV) on parenting and parent–child relationships. The report shows that emotional abuse is a serious issue in family breakdowns, and those women at the more extreme end of family violence are experiencing multiple and overlapping types of abuse, including emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse. The report also found a relationship between the presence of family violence and parenting capacity, satisfaction with parent-child relationships, and child wellbeing. The report concludes with key recommendations to improve policy and practice.

Domestic and family violence protection orders in Australia: An investigation of information-sharing and enforcement with a focus on interstate orders

Family Violence

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) has released a report summarising the findings of research undertaken by the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research regarding the enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DPVOs). Inconsistencies and competing interests at the intersections of domestic and family violence, child protection, and family law remain a barrier to effective implementation and enforcement of DVPOs.

Identify, Design, Implement, Evaluate

Early Intervention Foundation website

Early years, Families and parenting, Evidence Informed Practice

Putting early intervention into action can be a challenging process. It involves people and resources from a wide range of local services, and decisions that will shape the future of those services for years to come. Find out more about the steps and stages in making early intervention work using the range of resources on the Early Intervention Foundation website.

Early Years Transitions: Supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability: Rapid literature review

Education

This literature review conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) seeks to understand how Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services, professionals and teachers can support children in key transitions stages, particularly their entry into primary school. The review focuses on the transition support needs of children affected by trauma, children living in out of home care (OOHC) and children with a refugee background. It presents the most recent research to shed light on best practice. It highlights the importance of forging meaningful partnerships and providing ongoing support for the professional development of ECEC professionals and teachers.

Early Years transitions: Supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability: Rapid literature review

Education

The Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) engaged the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and Brotherhood of St Laurence to conduct a literature review on supporting children and families at risk of experiencing vulnerability during their transitions from home, out-of-home care or other programs into early childhood education and care (ECEC) services and school. The review focuses on the needs of children who have experienced trauma, children living in out-of-home care, refugee children and children experiencing intergenerational poverty. The report recommends stronger collaboration between a range of services, such as health and welfare services, ECEC institutions and schools.

Economic Abuse between Intimate Partners in Australia: Prevalence, Health Status, Disability and Financial Stress

Economic abuse is a form of domestic violence that has a significant impact on the health and financial wellbeing of victims. However, economic abuse between intimate partners remains a largely under-researched topic in Australia. This study aims to provide a national picture of the prevalence of economic abuse within the general population by determining the prevalence by age and gender, and identifying associated risk factors. The study found financial stress and disability to be significant indicators of economic abuse in the home.

Economic volatility in childhood and subsequent adolescent mental health problems: a longitudinal population-based study of adolescents

Mental Health, Poverty

The aim of this paper was to explore the relationship between exposure to low family income during childhood, and symptoms of mental health problems in adolescence. By using a range of outcome measures, the researchers determined that exposure to poverty in childhood was found to be associated with most mental health problems in adolescence, suggesting the need for targeted early interventions to support families to overcome poverty.

Educate Australia fair? Education inequality in Australia

Education

New research from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre assesses the extent to which Australians are afforded equal opportunity through education, according to key demographics. The report identifies stark contrasts between the most and least disadvantaged in families in Australia. For example, Aboriginal children are 40% less likely to finish high school than non-Aboriginal children, and children born in remote Australia are one third as likely to go to university, compared to children born in a major city.

Education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Education

In 2007, the Commonwealth, states and territories agreed to work towards ‘closing the gap’ in various domains of Indigenous disadvantage. This audit assesses whether Queensland is reducing the gap in education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The audit findings show that the Department of Education and Training (DET) has improved Year 12 attainment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. However, this has not been translated into improvement in employment rates for young people. The audit describes DETs ongoing challenges to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and highlights the centrality of community involvement and cultural recognition in schools.

Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators provides comprehensive data on the state of education around the world. The publication examines quality of learning outcomes; provides information about the financial and human resources invested in education; access and participation in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools. The report includes all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries These indicators can be compared internationally and used to assist governments to develop more effective and equitable education systems.

Design, Implement

Education Endowment Foundation – Teaching and Learning Toolkit

Education, Practice Tool

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is an independent charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. This resource features evidence summaries, tools, projects and case studies.

Educational engagement of children and young people in out of home care in NSW

Education

This report from the Association of Children's Welfare Agencies (ACWA) gives a snapshot of the level of engagement in education of children and young people in out-of-home care in New South Wales. Children living in OOHC experience higher levels of educational disengagement. One in five school-aged children and young people in care are absent from school at any given time and one in three school-aged children and young people in care did not have an Individual Education Plan.

Educational opportunity for all: Overcoming inequality throughout the life course

Education, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)

According to a new OECD report, too many children from disadvantaged backgrounds are falling behind in education and being disadvantaged in the future job market. Only a few OECD countries offer people from disadvantaged backgrounds equal opportunity to succeed as their more well-off peers, including Japan, Korea and the Netherlands. To address this level of inequality, investment in good quality early childhood education and care is needed, especially for children from disadvantaged families.

Educators’ understanding of young children’s typical and problematic sexual behaviour and their training in this area

Education

A new research report investigating primary school teachers’ experiences with children's problematic sexual behaviours has been released. The report reveals that many teachers feel that they need more support and training to identify and respond to problematic sexual behaviour in children. Eighty-nine per cent of teachers surveyed felt there should be a specific course to better prepare them for these incidences.

Effective teacher professional development

Education

This Learning Policy Institute report details key elements of effective professional development programs. It offers robust descriptions of high-quality programs to inform education leaders and policymakers who want to use professional development to improve student learning outcomes.

Effectively engaging stakeholders and the public in developing violence prevention messages

This study explores the ways in which stakeholders and the wider public can be effectively engaged when developing and communicating violence prevention messages. It emphasises the need for clear and consistent messaging, and evidence informed approach informed by past experiences.

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

Early years

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.

Effects of poverty on interacting biological systems underlying child development

Poverty, Safety and wellbeing

The experience of poverty in early childhood can have far-reaching impacts on children’s health and development. Children experiencing poverty are often exposed to multiple risk factors, which interact to shape their neurocognitive development. This paper explores the complex interaction of risk factors such as malnutrition and psychological stress, and the ways in which they can effect neural development and functioning.

Emerging evidence, insights and lessons: News media and the primary prevention of violence against women and their children

Family Violence

This report from Our Watch explores the role that media can play in preventing violence against women and children. It highlights the link between media reporting and community attitudes towards violence against women, and the tendency for news media to blame victims. The report suggests a number of practices that could improve the situation for women and children, including training for journalists and students and cross sector collaboration.

Empirical guidance on the effects of child sexual abuse on memory and complainants’ evidence

New research describes how memory can affect child sexual abuse prosecutions. This report summarises research findings that ‘common sense’ beliefs about memory, often held by police, lawyers, judges, juries and community members, has not been consistent with scientific knowledge about memory. The research is intended to contribute to the development of guidance for lawyers, magistrates, judges, juries and police.

Empowering migrant and refugee women: Supporting and empowering women beyond five-year post-settlement

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)

This Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) research report builds the evidence base on how to empower migrant and refugee women. The areas of empowerment explored in the report are women’s safety; economic and social participation; leadership opportunities; and to foster their role in promoting community cohesion. It details the types of services currently available as well as key gaps in service delivery for migrant and refugee women. One key challenge identified in providing services to migrant women is the need to accommodate diverse language needs.

Engaging Students: Creating Classrooms that Improve Learning

Education

The Grattan Institute's Engaging students: Creating classrooms that improve learning examines the hidden problem of student disengagement in Australian schools, reporting that as many as 40% of Australia’s school students are unproductive in a given year. The report draws on a number of major Australian studies from the past 10 years, finding that though classrooms are not out of control, many students are not engaged in learning. The paper offers a number of classroom level and system wide recommendations to improve student engagement. Teacher support is identified as a significant factor in improving student engagement, with a number of recommendations relating to teacher training and mentoring. Also important is the targeting of disadvantaged schools, where student engagement is lowest.

Evaluate

Engaging Young people in Evaluation

Evaluation, Young People, Video

Watch Dr. Kim Sabo Flores talking about her work, where she emphasises that best youth programs do not just build on youth’s strengths or assets. Instead they supply them with opportunities to explore entirely new ways of being in the world, to create new roles, new attitudes, and new actions. In this video, she also talks about creative activities to involve young people in evaluation.

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

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.

Evaluate

Evaluating the outcomes of programs for Indigenous families and communities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

This is a practitioner resource by Stewart Muir and Adam Dean outlining some of the key considerations for organisations who are thinking about evaluating the outcomes or impact of a program for Indigenous families or communities.

Evaluating the Outcomes of Programs for Indigenous Families and Communities

This practitioner resource outlines some key considerations for community sector organisations and service providers who are involved in evaluating the outcomes of programs involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families or communities. The resource highlights the need for meaningful participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all stages of evaluation, including planning and design.

Everyone deserves to be happy and safe

Safety and wellbeing

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has published a report looking at effects of child sexual abuse carried out in the UK using online technologies. Drawing on interviews and questionnaires with a group of young people aged 15-19, the report shows that technology can give perpetrators of abuse easier access to young people than they have in the offline world. The online medium lowers young people’s inhibitions and opens up opportunities for emotional or image –related blackmail. Importantly, the focus of this research is to capture young people’s direct perceptions, views and feelings about the impact of online abuse.

Evaluate

Evidence Principles and Checklist

Evaluation

This guide was designed by British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND) to help to assess and improve the quality of evidence in evaluation reports.

Evidence-based policy making for youth wellbeing

Safety and wellbeing

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report exploring how national governments can develop comprehensive policy frameworks that better respond to young peoples’ needs and aspirations. This report provides analytical tools and policy guidance, based on rigorous evidence and international good practices, to help countries improve their youth-focused policies and programs. It emphasises the need to identify and focus policies on the most disadvantaged youth, calling for a more targeted policy response.

Exploring the impact of community hubs on school readiness

Education

The Royal Children’s Hospital has published a report summarising the impact of community hubs on school readiness. It focuses on migrant and refugee children who are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable than other groups. The strengths of the model include relationship-building practices, family engagement, an early start to transition, and tailored services to better meet the needs of children and families.

Family and community predictors of comorbid language, socioemotional and behavior problems at school entry

Education

The University of Warwick has produced a longitudinal study on language and problem/prosocial behaviour in the early years. The report examines the association between language, gender and behavioural, social and emotional difficulties and prosocial behaviour during the toddler years and at school entry. It shows that children growing up in families experiencing multiple, complex needs are at risk of experiencing developmental difficulties that are likely to affect their experiences at school. The early identification of these children provides an opportunity for professionals to arrange timely interventions that improve health and learning outcomes.

The most recent issue of Family Matters presents a range of articles based on research presented at the AIFS Conference 2016: “Research to Results – Using evidence to improve outcomes for families”. The collection of articles discuss how evidence is being used to inform practice in the current policy and program context, and the importance of quality research to improving the lives of children and family members. Authors explore research in areas of school achievement, Indigenous program evaluation and supported playgroups for vulnerable young families, among others.

Family Matters No. 99: Research to results

Issue 99 of Family Matters builds on the 2016 Australian Institute of Family Services (AIFS) Conference theme of ‘research to results’. It discusses current debates in Australia about the use of evidence to improve policy and practice in child and family services. It explores issues in the sector from different perspectives, providing a voice to all those affected by the pressing debates. In addition to articles from researchers and experts, the edition contains a series of ‘practitioner perspectives’ on the use of evidence, and departmental updates on significant child and families programs.

The 2017 Family Matters Report has been released, showing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and 9.8 times more likely to be living in out of home care than non-Indigenous children. It is estimated that by 2036 the number of Indigenous children in care will more than triple if nothing is changed. The reports set out what governments must do to turn the tide on the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care, and improve outcomes for vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Fathers who use violence: Options for safe practice where there is ongoing contact with children

In situations of family violence, women and children are not always in a position to separate from an abusive partner. Separation itself may cause increased violence, homelessness or poverty. This paper explores strategies for working with families where fathers who use violence continue to have contact with the children. Whole of family approaches that engage each member of the family are discussed as having an important role to play in promoting the wellbeing and safety of all involved.

Fifth national mental health and suicide prevention plan

Mental Health

The Department of Health has released its fifth national plan to improve the mental health system and outcomes for people with mental illness. The plan outlines a set of priority areas and actions that are designed to achieve a more efficient, accountable and integrated mental health system. Initiatives outlined in the plan include strengthening regional mental health services, strengthening programs to prevent suicide and the launch of the 'Head to Health' website.

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.

Five Year Mental Health Youth Report

Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute have collaborated to produce a report on youth mental health. The report presents findings from youth survey data collected between 2012- 2016, and comments on the psychological stress experienced by young people and their help-seeking behaviour. One significant finding included in the report was that one in four young people (aged 15-19) who responded to the survey met the criteria for having a probable serious mental illness (PSMI)and that PSMI has increased among young people over the past 5 years, particularly among females. The risk of mental health issues is greater in Indigenous groups than non-Indigenous groups. This report shows that more targeted investment is needed to address the concerning levels of mental health issues amongst young Australians.

Follow up of selected 2014–15 performance audits: Additional school costs for families

Education

Victorian Auditor-General's Office (VAGO) has released a follow up audit report on ‘Additional school costs for families’, focusing on whether DET and government schools are managing parent education costs economically, efficiently and effectively. The report identifies some improvements since the initial findings from 2014-15, however, it also found inconsistent compliance with the new Parent Payment Policy and suggests that more needs to be done to address the underlying economic and efficiency issues identified in the 2015 audit.

Forced Adoption Support Services: Establishing and building networks

This resource aims to guide Forced Adoption Support Services (FASS) on best practice approaches to building networks. Local networks are important to creating a continuum of care for those affected by forced adoption and family separation. The paper outlines the service types that are integral to meeting the needs of those affected by forced adoption, and provides practical tools to promote collaboration with practitioners from the broader health and mental health sectors whose primary role is not post-adoption support.

Foster and kinship carer recruitment and retention: Encouraging and sustaining quality care to improve outcomes for children and young people in care.

Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Child Protection Studies (ICPS) has released a qualitative study aimed at identifying new and effective approaches to the recruitment, support and retention of kinship and foster carers. The report identifies some of the key approaches currently being used across Australia’s states and territories. The report shows that there is growing recognition that different approaches are required to find and support kinship carers, opposed to foster carers.

Free from Violence: Victoria’s Strategy to prevent family violence

The Victorian Government has launched the next step to build a state free from violence, with the release of a Primary Prevention Strategy as part of the Family Violence Rolling Action Plan. The strategy focuses on the social structures, norms and practices that prevent or reduce the risk of violence. The strategy outlines a plan to develop more evidence-based programs and to establish the first Victorian Prevention Agency.