The parents and carers give their children a good

Families First
Families First: An Overview
Media Enquiries 02 9716 2804
The Families First initiative is designed to help
parents and carers give their children a good
start in life, to help them connect with each
other for support and to prevent problems
before families find themselves in crisis.
Families First services have been designed for
parents who are expecting new babies and
caring for young children. In addition, specific
strategies have been developed to address the
needs of families with children with disabilities,
families from ethnic communities and
Aboriginal families.
The NSW Government has allocated $117.5
million over four years (2002-2006) to the
whole-of-Government Families First initiative.
The Department of Community Services (DoCS)
is taking a lead role with $87.5 million to fund
new services. Other participating organisations
include the Departments of Ageing, Disability
and Home Care, Education and Training, Health
and Housing as well as Area Health Services.
Families First is based
on research that shows
children’s early
experiences, particularly
in the first three years of
life, can have a major
effect on the quality of
their later life.
As at March 2004 more than 200 Families First
services had been funded by DoCS across New
South Wales. Many more will be established
over the next two years.
DoCS-funded Families First services are provided
in partnership with locally-based community
organisations, parents and other government
departments. This partnership spans program
design, planning and delivery.
• Qualified community childhood experts set up
playgroups in local communities. These
playgroups offer opportunities for parents to
meet, share their experiences, build their
parenting skills and access information and
community resources.
• School-based community centres are set up
to help families prepare their children for
school and to encourage parents to access
other local community networks and
The NSW Government introduced Families First
in 1999 in response to mounting international
research and evidence demonstrating that
universal prevention and targeted early
intervention programs have a range of positive
benefits for families.
These include:
• healthier children and parents
• better functioning families who are able to
enjoy and learn from one another
• children who are better prepared to learn and
develop when they start shcool
• improved recognition and early intervention
for post-natal depression and other mental
health problems in parents and new babies
• reduced child abuse and neglect
• reduced juveniles and adult crime.
Families First services include family worker
services, supported playgroups, volunteer home
visiting services, schools as community centres
and other locally developed community programs.
This has the added benefit of saving taxpayers in
the longer term. One 27-year US study showed
that for every $1 invested in services to help
families with young children, $4 was saved
within three years on child protection, health,
education and justice systems. By the time the
children were adults, $7 had been saved.
• Family workers visit parents at home to help
them improve their life and parenting skills.
This service targets vulnerable families with
particular priority given to young parents,
parents with a developmental disability and
families with a child with a disability.
• Trained volunteers visit families with young
children to provide practical advice, support
and an occasional helping hand. They help
families to access resources and information
and to link-up with community support
Families First aims to help children grow to their
full potential. The first three years are
particularly critical in a child’s neurological,
emotional and physical development. To be
healthy and well adjusted, children need love,
kindness and good relationships. This builds
their confidence, self esteem, feelings of
security, capacity to learn and problem solve.
March 2004
Families First
Families First: An Overview
Media Enquiries 02 9716 2804
Neurological development plays an important
role in a child’s capacity to learn to cope with
stressful situations and to interact socially in
later life.
After local planning has been completed for
each area, expressions of interest are invited
from community organisations interested in
providing the new services.
Families First is designed to help parents
develop their parenting skills and give them a
greater sense of control over their lives.
Through a service network of professionals and
trained volunteers, parents will receive support
and information to help create the conditions
under which they find it easiest to raise, love
and care for their children. These conditions
include: knowledge of child development, self
esteem, improved ability to cope with stress,
support of extended family and social
networks outside the family, good health and
adequate income and housing.
Families First will help communities to build
and sustain networks which support and
connect families.
Social structures surrounding families can
make it harder or easier for them to manage
their problems. Effective parenting relies not
just on individuals but also on the health of
the community.
Communities are more likely to support and
connect families when: children and family life
is valued, people trust each other and join
together to take action, families participate in
activities and people value the community as a
place to live.
Families First recognises that the best
approach integrates a range of different
services such as education, mental health and
child protection. For this reason it is based on
a coordinated approach between Government
departments and community organisations,
with common service delivery principles.
Families First has been rolled out progressively,
with the whole of NSW now covered.
DoCS Parenting campaign, which is linked with
the Families First strategy, supports parents in
raising their children by providing parents with
easy-to-read, practical information on raising
children. DoCS has produced a series of four
magazines containing comprehensive
parenting information endorsed by a range of
experts. Copies of the parenting magazines are
available in DoCS offices, on the DoCS website
( or at and from some
non-government community organisations.
• 1,654,500 families live in NSW
• 48% are couple-families with children
• 15% are one-parent families
• 467,000 families have 778,040 children who
are under eight years of age
• Approximately half of these children
(335, 578) are three years old or younger
• 86,700 children are born annually (on
average one baby every six minutes)
• 11% of children live in towns with
populations of less than 1000
• One in six children speaks a language other
than English at home.
For more information on Families First, see
March 2004