Supporting children through community collaboration
Over the last 20 years, research has emerged about the importance of providing supportive environments for all children to ensure their wellbeing and development. But sadly, not everyone can provide this for children and young people in their care.
The Children’s Wellbeing Initiative is a community-led approach to child wellbeing in East Gippsland, Victoria. Run by Save the Children, the initiative brings together a collective of organisations who offer support to children and their families. Together, we strengthen and build collaborative responses to the needs of children so they can grow up safe, happy and healthy.
Why the wellbeing of young children is so important
The healthy development of children is dependent on the environments and experiences they are exposed to in their homes and community. Particularly in the early years of life, children need a loving, supportive and safe environment to grow – this can influence how they develop emotionally and cognitively, and it can affect the kind of adults they become.
Community-led research has found East Gippsland’s children are behind when it comes to important wellbeing indicators. Five areas identified as needing urgent attention are social and emotional development, family violence prevention, children with additional needs, substance abuse prevention, and access to services.
Service providers were also operating in isolation, which meant children and families were not receiving a cohesive response to their needs. There had to be a shift in the way family focused organisations worked so children in East Gippsland received more support and better outcomes.
The Children’s Wellbeing Initiative
We listened to stories and feedback from children, parents and organisations. We then brought together a range of service providers to collaborate and develop better services and support for young children.
Together, these organisations are collectively providing better healthcare, protecting children from violence and abuse, and strengthening early childhood education and development outreach to all children. We're also still listening to the stories and feedback as we go, so we can track how this program is reaching children and families, and so we can change approaches when things are not working.
We're also making services more integrated and inclusive so marginalised children and their families don't fall through the gaps. And we advocate for stronger leadership and local governance to bring about an entire shift in how the community is responding to the urgent needs of its youngest generation.
How we know we’re making a difference
We use a collective impact approach that measures the improvement in social problems through changed behaviours. From this, we know service providers have been able to respond more effectively to children and families who need support.
Community members – mothers, fathers, girls, boys, teachers, childcare workers – have greater knowledge and training around how to identify and respond to family violence, and ways to prevent violence in the home. And there is greater awareness about the impacts of substance abuse and ways this can be tackled by the community.
We have also seen better engagement between local government, service providers and the community on family violence prevention, leading to better support for women and children who are experiencing violence.
Our work is about helping all levels of our community pause, take stock and then gather collective impact towards long-term change that will impact positively on generations of children and young people to come.