Evaluation of the Noah’s Shoalhaven Kids Together Program
(Noah’s Ark Centre of Shoalhaven Inc.)
Duration: December 2013 – May 2015
Noah’s Shoalhaven, a non-government organisation located in Nowra, New South Wales, developed the Kids Together Program to address inclusion and the needs of pre-school aged children with disability / additional needs in mainstream early learning environments in preparation for the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Kids Together involves a multi-disciplinary team of key workers (occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist, early childhood education specialist) supporting parents and carers through home visiting, group training at the early childhood education centre and during transition when starting preschool and moving into school. The program was piloted in one early childhood education centre in 2013 and subsequently implemented across 15 centres in 2014. Having completed a literature review on the inclusion of children with disabilities / additional needs in early childhood mainstream education in 2013, CHSD was commissioned to undertake a program evaluation of the Kids Together Program over the 2014 school year.
What we did
The overarching goal of the 18-month program evaluation was to bring together lessons learnt in the delivery of the program, to capture evidence of its impact and effectiveness from all sites and to assess the suitability of the program for scale up across a broader range of sites. A realist evaluation approach was adopted in order to understand how the program works and in what circumstances it was effective. A steering committee was established to oversee the evaluation included industry and policy representation as well as Noah’s Shoalhaven, and University of Wollongong academics. In order to obtain a clear picture or model of the underlying rationale or logic of the Kids Together Program a program logic model was developed in collaboration with Noah’s Shoalhaven and an evaluation framework set up. The evaluation involved the collection of quantitative and qualitative data. Qualitative data was collected at five of the centres at the commencement and again towards the end of the program; it included semi-structured interviews with Noah’s Shoalhaven staff, centre directors, and parents, and focus groups with centre staff, as well as observation of key workers, children and centre staff. A survey of early childhood education staff was implemented at all sites at the end of the program period and program data was collected including goal attainment scores for children with additional needs. The final report was completed in November 2015. The evaluation identified the strengths of the model, challenges encountered in its implementation, and lessons learnt. Recommendations were made for increasing the capacity and ensuring the sustainability of the model. Options for the expansion of the model in the context of the NDIS introduction were discussed.
Evaluation results demonstrate that Kids Together was successfully implemented across ECECC, home settings and some community settings, with the capacity to demonstrate effectiveness across a broader range of community settings over time. Parents and carers, directors, ECEC centre staff all reported a high degree of satisfaction with the program. ECEC centre directors were highly supportive, enthusiastic and committed to its success. Strong evidence was provided for the attainment of each of the short and medium term outcomes represented in the Kids Together Logic Model. This includes outcomes at the individual, organisational and community levels. Good evidence was provided that some of the long term outcomes such as successful transitioning to school for children with additional needs were being attained and that the program provides opportunities for more meaningful participation by these children in society.