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Learning from the programs that provide the best support to families

We know the majority of child protection cases stem from families being in crisis, and it is therefore critical we are taking steps to help parents address the challenges they are facing early in their parenting journey.

Cradle to Kinder, a program we have delivered for four years, is designed to support parents when pregnant or caring for newborns and stands alongside them for up to four years to support them to raise healthy children in positive and loving environments.

The program focuses on families that are considered significantly disadvantaged and vulnerable and are at a high likelihood of experiencing poor maternal health and infant outcomes. Programs that are designed to provide this long-term early-intervention support are limited, and there is little Australian evidence that demonstrates the long-term impact of such programs.

MacKillop Family Services partnered with Monash University to evaluate the outcomes of the Cradle to Kinder program. The evaluation examined the impact of the interventions and support on family functioning and child health and wellbeing after 30 months of engagement. The results found that families experienced significant improvements in:

  • Family safety, including improvements/reductions in domestic violence, family conflict, physical or emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect of children
  • Self -sufficiency, including improvements in employment, income, financial management, nutrition and transportation
  • Parental capabilities, including improvements in the supervision of children, the ability to implement healthy disciplinary practices, and promoting children’s education.
  • Family Interactions, including bonding and communicating with the child, expectations of the child, relationship between caregivers, family routines/rituals, and family recreational activities.

These results demonstrate the incredible impact that early support to families can make. Programs like Cradle to Kinder support parents to create strong families and establish connections in the community that provide the conditions for both the parents and the children to thrive. At MacKillop, we believe strong families create strong communities.

Critically, early intervention programs prevent harm. Of the families that engaged with our Cradle to Kinder families, close to 90% of their children remained safely within the family home. This is in contrast to 28% of babies subject to unborn reports expected to be in care within two years.

We know that children who are removed from home can experience significant grief, loss and trauma that can resonate throughout their life. Children who grow up in safe homes, with strong family and community connections, are better equipped to develop a strong sense of identity and achieve their best potential.

Where we can prevent harm, we should prevent harm. MacKillop is committed to providing early intervention support, evaluating our outcomes, and sharing this with the sector so together we can provide the best opportunities for children and families to thrive.