$1.8 million for new early childhood program in Melbourne
The Australian Government has provided $1.8 million over three years to provide at risk children with access to a new early childhood project bringing together quality early childhood education and care, with intensive family support.
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, announced the funding at the launch of the Children’s Protection Society’s new Child and Family Centre in Heidelberg West, where the Integrated Early Education and Care Project will be trialled.
The project provides 15 child care places for vulnerable children in a five day a week program, as well as on-site services for their families such as counselling and parenting classes.
Parents will also be linked with services to address underlying problems such as mental health, drug and alcohol and family violence.
Each child will have an individual learning and development record, which will be reviewed at least every three months to make sure that they are meeting developmental and learning milestones.
‘The evidence is clear that quality early learning programs are very effective at overcoming disadvantage in young children. This program offers high staff-to-child ratios and tailored learning activities, giving children the very best start in life,’ Ms Macklin said.
‘This program will help kids learn and grow, while also helping mum and dad with parenting and coping with the pressures of family life.
‘The Children’s Protection Society has extensive experience working with vulnerable families and runs programs with a child protection focus, including health, counselling and parenting support services.’
The Integrated Early Education and Care Project will be evaluated by the Centre for Community Child Health at the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital.
That evaluation will provide feedback on strategies most likely to help vulnerable families to benefit from early childhood programs.
‘We’re investing in innovative new approaches to early childhood education, particularly for vulnerable families. The pilot project is based on findings from the successful Carolina Abecedarian Project in the United States and will be tailored to support the specific needs of Australian families,’ Ms Ellis said.
‘The project is a first in Australia and we’re very keen to see what benefits it can deliver for vulnerable children and families in Heidelberg West.
‘I want all children to access early childhood education and care – but it’s particularly important that children from a disadvantaged background or those at risk of abuse and neglect have access to early education.’
This trial is being delivered as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.