BACKGROUND: Childhood mental health problems are highly prevalent, experienced by one in five children living in socioeconomically disadvantaged families. Although childcare settings, including family day care are ideal to promote children's social and emotional wellbeing at a population level in a sustainable way, family day care educators receive limited training in promoting children's mental health. This study is an exploratory wait-list control cluster randomised controlled trial to test the appropriateness, acceptability, cost, and effectiveness of "Thrive," an intervention program to build the capacity of family day care educators to promote children's social and emotional wellbeing. Thrive aims to increase educators' knowledge, confidence and skills in promoting children's social and emotional wellbeing.
METHODS/DESIGN: This study involves one family day care organisation based in a low socioeconomic area of Melbourne. All family day care educators (term used for registered carers who provide care for children for financial reimbursement in the carers own home) are eligible to participate in the study. The clusters for randomisation will be the fieldworkers (n = 5) who each supervise 10-15 educators. The intervention group (field workers and educators) will participate in a variety of intervention activities over 12 months, including workshops; activity exchanges with other educators; and focused discussion about children's social and emotional wellbeing during field worker visits. The control group will continue with their normal work practice. The intervention will be delivered to the intervention group and then to the control group after a time delay of 15 months post intervention commencement. A baseline survey will be conducted with all consenting educators and field workers (n = ~70) assessing outcomes at the cluster and individual level. The survey will also be administered at one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. The survey consists of questions measuring perceived levels of knowledge, confidence and skills in promoting children's social and emotional wellbeing. As much of this intervention will be delivered by field workers, field worker-family day care educator relationships are key to its success and thus supervisor support will also be measured. All educators will also have an in-home quality of care assessment at baseline, one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. Process evaluation will occur at one month, six months and 12 months post-intervention commencement. Information regarding intervention fidelity and economics will also be assessed in the survey.
DISCUSSION: A capacity building intervention in child mental health promotion for family day care is an essential contribution to research, policy and practice. This initiative is the first internationally, and essential in building an evidence base of interventions in this extremely policy-timely setting.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: 343312.
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