Experiences during the early years have lifelong effects on children’s achievement, social development and mental and physical health. Research tells us that mentally healthy children learn better, have stronger relationships and are better prepared for meeting life challenges.
KidsMatter is a national mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention framework, set in primary schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services (such as preschools, kindergartens and day care centres) that supports the care of children’s mental health needs by:
- creating positive school and early childhood communities,
- teaching children skills for good social and emotional development,
- working together with families and carers, and
- recognising and getting help for children with mental health problems (early intervention).
Bringing mental health, education and early childhood expertise together at national, state and local levels, the KidsMatter framework is underpinned by a socio-ecological approach that emphasises the impacts that families, schools, early childhood services and communities can have on achieving positive outcomes for children’s mental health. KidsMatter’s three tiers of partnerships are:
- National – Partnerships with other national organisations (e.g., Kids Helpline, Smiling Mind) to increase access for children, families, schools and services
- State – making connections between state-wide initiatives and KidsMatter (e.g., Victoria’s Achievement Program).
- Local – increasing referral pathways, overcoming barriers to service access for children and families, increasing resources at schools and ECEC services.
KidsMatter draws on these partnerships and other collaborative relationships between mental health professionals and education and childcare staff to support the development of a range of resources relevant to the KidsMatter framework, funded by the Australian Government and beyondblue.
Resources available through the KidsMatter framework include professional learning events for staff on the implementation process, and information sessions, programs and fact sheets for staff, families, and children. Resources are freely available at the website: www.kidsmatter.edu.au, with links to an eNewsletter for health and community professionals, and social media links for the community.
An independent evaluation of the KidsMatter pilot showed positive results, including:
- improvements to child mental health and wellbeing,
- reductions in child mental health difficulties (including behavior problems),
- increased staff capacity, and
- stronger parental engagement.
For more information, visit: www.kidsmatter.edu.au