Territory Stories

The value of investment in the early years



The value of investment in the early years

Other title

Balancing costs of childhood services


Menzies School of Health Research

Sponsored by

Northern Territory. Department of Education and Training


E-Publications; PublicationNT; E-Books; Early Childhood Series




This publication was produced on behalf of the Department of Education and Training by the Menzies School of Health Research.; Robinson G, Silburn, SR, Arney F, 2011. The value of investment in the early years: Balancing costs of childhood services. Topical paper commissioned for the public consultations on the Northern Territory Early Childhood Plan. Darwin: Northern Territory Government.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).




Child development; Early childhood educaton; Northern Territory

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication



Early Childhood Series


No. 4 2011




Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

VALUE OF INVESTMENTS IN THE EARLY YEARS: BALANCING COSTS 15 An effectiveness trial in advance of wider replication would provide greater certainty about outcomes that can be delivered and increase understanding about the processes required for effective service delivery and implementation. The Canadian review of early intervention studies to support child mental health recommended implementation by way of randomised controlled trials to ensure high quality implementation. 28 Other considerations also need to be taken into account in regard to the feasibility of delivery of some of these programs. While international evidence has demonstrated the efficacy of Triple P Positive Parenting Programs and its effectiveness as a population intervention in many service settings, some research suggests that it has proven more difficult to engage and retain Indigenous families in such highly structured programs, even where parents have sought help and assistance for child behaviour problems before seeking to join a program. 44 In other words, success at a population level may not necessarily translate into effectiveness for all high needs or disadvantaged groups without some adaptation of the approach. Contextual diversity between urban and remote settings and between clients of various cultural backgrounds remains a critical challenge for engagement of families and for their participation in early childhood programs. 45 These problems are exacerbated where the professional workforce is insufficiently large or stable enough to accommodate the training and practice requirements of the particular intervention. Overall, the evidence suggests that effective early intervention and prevention in various formats and settings, and seeking to effect change in children and/or their parents, can significantly reduce the incidence of problems known to generate high future costs to society and to individuals, their families and communities. Given the multiple causes of problems such as child neglect and abuse and even problems like anti-social behaviour, conduct disorder, anxiety and depression, it is suggested that prevention must be pursued through multiple strategies and in multiple settings. This requires striking an appropriate balance between universal strategies aiming at populationwide reach, and the more targeted programs aimed for individuals at higher risk, as well as for members of communities suffering higher levels of disadvantage and multiple concurrent sources of risk. Given the challenge of underdevelopment of services in the NT, there is a high priority for greater investment in early childhood through the continued building of the capacity of universal childrens services. This is consistent with key national and NT policy commitments to extend universal access to preschool and childcare and to develop Integrated Child and Family Centres in the 20 Growth Towns. Such services would be better positioned to provide the base around which more intensive targeted preventive programs for children with greater needs for developmental support would be delivered. To optimise the return on these investments, models of quality practice, such as those developed for the High/Scope Perry Preschool, Abecedarian and Chicago Child-Parent Centre programs, should be utilised to build quality programs of early learning as the basis for curriculum and instruction in those services. Both targeted and universal programs of prevention and support need to be supported by rigorous quality controls and ongoing monitoring of outcomes through structured and systematic program evaluations. Furthermore, to ensure value for money and to improve the evidence base of early childhood programs in the NT, the implementation of targeted and intensive services and interventions should include evaluation methodologies which enable their costs and effectiveness to be clearly established and reported.

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