Child development

Children's development is a collective responsibility

The first 2000 days of a child’s life set the stage for their lifelong health, wellbeing and learning. The brain develops more rapidly, and we learn faster at this critical time than any other in our lives – with positive connections and experiences laying the foundations for a bright future.

The NSW Government is supporting children and families in NSW from pregnancy through the first 2000 days of a child’s life through cross-agency collaboration.

Government agencies are working together with education, health and social service professionals to give children the best start in life by providing parents and families with the right information at the right time, improved universal services and targeted support.

A suite of evidence-based programs and services are being expanded to target child development at all prenatal to age 5 life stages to ensure the best life outcomes for every child in NSW.

This includes bringing health and development checks into NSW preschools, more culturally safe services and support for Aboriginal families with children aged 0-8 years, the expansion of the Nurse-led home visiting and a conferencing service to provide early family support.

Health and development checks

We are bringing health and development checks into NSW preschools in partnership with health professionals from 2023.

Almost half of all 4 year old children do not get their recommended health and development checks, meaning thousands of parents are missing out on important information about their child’s development.

Making these checks available in preschool settings will make it easier for parents and children to access these important checks and help them ensure the best start in life for their child.

Pregnancy Family Conferencing

The Pregnancy Family Conferencing program supports expectant parents and their families where there are concerns about the safety and wellbeing of an unborn child. The program provides early intervention to help families plan for a successful start in their parenting journey and keep mothers and their children together. 

The Pregnancy Family Conferencing program to provide early family support is currently operating in 6 metropolitan sites throughout Greater Sydney. This new funding will enable the program to reach more families across the state.

Sustaining NSW Families

Sustaining NSW Families is a health home visit program which helps strengthen the relationships between children and parents and/or carers; builds parenting capacity; and enhances child development, wellbeing and health.

The service is offered to identified families, including mothers, who are experiencing anxiety or depression, and families experiencing circumstances which are known to have an unfavourable impact on the family. It is led by specially trained Child and Family Health nurses.

Sustaining NSW Families currently operates in 9 locations across NSW. This new funding will enable us to increase the number of families benefitting from the program to help them give their child the best start in life.

Aboriginal Child and Family Centres

Aboriginal Child and Family Centres provide key culturally safe services and supports for Aboriginal families with children aged 0-8 years. They deliver early childhood education and care, parent and family support, maternal and child health advice, and adult education opportunities. The aim is to provide a seamless experience for children and families and improved access to critical services.

Aboriginal Child and Family Centres in NSW are operated by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and are tailored to the local needs of families and communities.

We will increase support for the 9 existing Aboriginal Child and Family Centres and build additional centres, to ensure more communities have access to these important services.

New locations will be informed by community consultation and community need.

Digital Baby Book

The Digital Baby Book will be available for a child’s parents, carers and guardians. NSW Health is working on a long-term plan to develop the existing child Personal Health Record (the Blue Book) into a digital health record.

It will provide parents and carers with access to a single, secure consumer app where they can manage their child's health information. This will make it easier to share relevant information with health professionals.

In the longer term, the Digital Baby Book aims to provide near real-time integration with existing health information in hospitals, community settings and general practice. It is expected to improve the early life experience of children from birth to the age of 5 and help predict future health outcomes.

The Blue Book is given to all parents in NSW soon after the birth of their baby. It is a place to record the child’s health, growth, development, illnesses, injuries and immunisations. The Blue Book also recommends parents take their child to a Child and Family Health Centre or their doctor for routine health checks from birth until about 4 years of age.

Currently, parents or carers must carry this vital information with them between various healthcare appointments, but these books can be forgotten or misplaced, making it difficult for healthcare providers to access the information needed to provide safe, high-quality care at the time of presentation.

The health checks are important as they help parents and health professionals track the development of a child and pick up any potential problems.

A Digital Baby Book will ensure these vital records are never lost and easily accessible when needed.

Lifelong benefits

The NSW Government has engaged families from diverse backgrounds to learn about their experience with services and support during the first 2,000 days of their child’s life. Their suggestions for what their children need and want during this critical time were used to help create this suite of child development programs.

The NSW Government supports families to navigate through pregnancy and the early days of their children’s lives, with streamlined and easily accessible support, reminders, and access to health resources.

These programs will help increase the proportion of NSW children on track against the 5 Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) domains by the time they start school, and they will contribute to NSW’s commitment to Closing the Gap by helping to meet the target of 55% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on track against the 5 AEDC domains by 2031.

More information

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