Children who experience neglect and abuse are likely to have impaired brain development and entrenched learning deficiencies. Early years interventions such as intensive education and care for these children are known to have the potential to increase their human capital. The Early Years Education Program (EYEP) is a new program offered by the Children's Protection Society (CPS) in Melbourne, Australia. EYEP is targeted at the needs of children who have been or are at risk of being abused or neglected. It has the dual focus of seeking to address the consequences of abuse and neglect on children's brain development and redressing their learning deficiencies. Our objective is to determine whether EYEP can improve school readiness by conducting a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of its impacts. Methods/Design: The RCT is being conducted with 90 participants (45 intervention and 45 control). Eligible children must be aged under three years and assessed as having two or more risk factors as defined in the Department of Human Services Best Interest Case Practice Model. The intervention group participate for three years (or until school entry) in EYEP. The trial does not provide any early years education or care to the control group. Data are being collected on outcome measures for participants in EYEP and the control group at the baseline, at yearly intervals for three years, and six months after commencing the first year of school. Outcome measures encompass children's health and development, academic ability and emotional and behavioural regulation; and quality of parenting practices. The study will evaluate the impact of EYEP on these outcomes, and undertake a benefit-cost analysis of the program. Discussion: Findings from the study have the potential to influence the quality of care and education for the large population of children in Australia who are at risk of abuse and neglect, as well as for children in mainstream childcare. The study will provide up-to-date evidence on the impact of an early years intervention relevant to an urban population in Australia; as well as (to our knowledge) being the first RCT of an early years education and care intervention in Australia. (author abstract)
Improving lifetime trajectories for vulnerable young children and families living with significant stress and social disadvantage: The Early Years Education Program randomised controlled trial
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