New SEARCH paper reveals importance of family involvement in Aboriginal kids’ health and development

Every parent wants to give their child the best start at school, and now a new research paper suggests that working closely with parents and caregivers could further empower families and clinicians with the information they need to help children flourish at school.

In the largest study of its kind, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and researchers focused on identifying Aboriginal children at moderate and high developmental risk, based on concerns expressed by their parents or caregivers.

Parents participating in the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) were asked about their child’s development using a standardised developmental risk tool for children under 8 years.

The team found that when given the opportunity to voice their concerns, parents and caregivers provided valuable information that could be useful in helping to optimise their child’s development.

Some families did not have significant concerns about their child’s development and for those who did, most were around language and behaviour.

Factors linked to having significant concerns about a child’s development included a prior history of ear infection, having lived in four or more houses, being in out of home care, and having a caregiver with mental health issues. The good news is, all of these are potentially modifiable.

These findings highlight just how important it is to partner with Aboriginal communities and empower families by involving them in efforts to monitor their child’s development, the authors say.

“We need to support parents and caregivers with Aboriginal community-driven programs that ask them directly if they have concerns about their children’s development. We also need to facilitate access to timely early interventions, especially to support language and behaviour.”

The authors add that to be relevant and effective, it’s critical that programs addressing child developmental problems are developed and driven by Aboriginal communities.

Read the full paper here

SEARCH is Australia’s largest long-term study of Aboriginal children living in urban areas. Find out how it’s improving our understanding of the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Children in urban areas.