Universal early child care and education services are a potential resource for children at risk. They can function as a secondary preventative intervention by ameliorating aspects of social disadvantage and deprivation (for example providing compensatory experiences including relationship experiences, not available at home) (Jordan and Sketchley 2009). In the USA early child care and education programs targeted at disadvantaged children – such as the Perry Preschool program and Abecedarian Project – have had success in improving the school readiness and early adult outcomes of disadvantaged children (Berrueta-Clement, 1994; Schweinhart et al 2005; Campbell et al 2002). The benefits of early and sustained educational development for vulnerable children may be universally acknowledged, yet those at-risk children who would benefit the most are least likely to have access to quality age-appropriate, sustained educational experiences.
The objective of the EYEP is to provide a model for early childcare and education for children that is effective in ensuring continuing participation of children and their parents to deliver improved social and educational outcomes. Features of the program such as the high staff:child ratios, integration with family support, and an education and care model informed by attachment and trauma theory, are novel in Australia.