The Evidence Portal

Family Support Program

About the program

The Family Support Program is based on the Comprehensive Child Development Program and follows the principles of cognitive and behavioural parenting interventions based on social learning models. The intervention component has two different parts: for parents and for children. The program is flexible and can be adapted to meet the individual needs of each family. The program goals are to provide parenting education in child development, health care, nutrition, and parent–child interaction activities; and to improve the cognitive, social and personal development of children.

Who does it work for?

The program is targeted at children aged between 3 and 5 years, where the child shows signs of social behavioural problems; has difficulties with socio-emotional or cognitive development; or the parents lack parenting skills.

One RCT was conducted in Portugal with a sample of 40 families (final sample 36 families), of which 35.9% were African and 2.6% were of mixed ethnicity (Calheiros et al. 2017).

The review did not identify any evidence that the program has been evaluated in Australia or with First Nations communities.

What outcomes does it contribute to?

Positive outcomes:

Physical neglect, Psychological and physical abuse, and Lack of supervision: Data was collected using the Questionnaire for evaluating Maltreatment and Neglect at pre intervention and post intervention. There was a statistically significant reduction in physical neglect and psychological and physical abuse, with large effect sizes (Cohen’s d =−0.71, and Cohen’s d =−1.01), and a statistically significant improvement in supervision, with medium effect size (Cohen’s d =−0.48).

These findings need to be regarded with caution as the study sample size is very small.

No effect:

Educational neglect: There was not a significant finding for educational neglect (development needs, monitoring mental health, school tracking).

Negative outcomes:


Although the outcomes were positive, they should be regarded with caution as the study sample size is very small.

Is the program effective?

Overall, the program had a mixed effect on client outcomes.

How strong is the evidence?

Mixed research evidence (with no adverse effects):

  • At least one high-quality RCT/QED study reports statistically significant positive effects for at least one outcome, AND
  • An equal number or more RCT/QED studies of similar size and quality show no observed effects than show statistically significant positive effects, AND
  • No RCT/QED studies show statistically significant adverse effects

How is it implemented?

The program is delivered by a multi-disciplinary team including a social worker, a psychologist, an early childhood educator and two social educators. For the parents the program consists of 20 individualised sessions in the home every two weeks, each lasting 30 - 90 minutes; 15 individual or group sessions in preschool at least once per month; video-modelling; and written resources developed by the intervention team. For the children there are 52 sessions - two per week for half an hour each time. Sessions are conducted in groups of 4-6 children guided by an educator within the school system, and take place at the preschool.

How much does it cost?

Information not available

What else should I consider?

Calheiros and colleagues (2017) emphasised the importance of team training and ongoing supervision for staff. Anecdotal evidence of fidelity was collected and suggested that the program was implemented as intended.

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT conducted in Portugal with a final sample of 36 families (Calheiros et al. 2017).

Further resources

Calheiros, M. M. et al. (2017). “Evaluation of an Intervention Program for Families with Children at Risk for Maltreatment and Developmental Impairment: A Preliminary Study.” Journal of Child and Family Studies 27(5): 1605-1613.

Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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