The Evidence Portal

Relief Nursery Program

About the program

The Relief Nursery Program is designed for and targeted at economically vulnerable families, with the aim of decreasing instances of child maltreatment. Social support is seen as a key protective factor and is given focus in each of the core components. The program draws on Bronfenbrenner’s socioecological model. The program is offered in face-to-face, individual and group settings, over a period of 36 months. It is delivered by family support workers with nursing or social work qualifications.

See also Relief Nursery Program Summary in the Preventing Child Maltreatment Evidence Review.

Who does it work for?

The Relief Nursery Program is designed for and targeted at economically vulnerable families with children aged between 18 months and 4 years. One RCT was conducted in the USA with a sample of 180 caregivers and 180 children who had been identified as being at risk of maltreatment (Eddy et al. 2020). Of these, 83% were White, 42% were Latinx and 15% were multiracial. Of the caregivers, 43% did not finish high school, and over 50% earned less than US$20,000.

This 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:

Social support: By the 24-month point, intervention group demonstrated a significant increase in Social Support, indicated by the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ) Tangible Support and Social Interaction Support subscales (p<0.05; d=0.36) and the SSQ Social Interaction Support subscale e (p<0.05; d=0.34). At wave 5 (2-year point) there was a significant difference on the SSQ Tangible Support subscale e (p<0.05; d =0.34).

No effect:

Social support: No significant differences were found between the intervention and control groups on the Social support outcome measures assessed at the 12-month point.

Parental stress: There was a small but statistically insignificant effect on parenting efficacy and stress in the intervention group (Eddy et al. 2020).

Child abuse potential: There was a small but statistically insignificant improvement in child abuse potential in the intervention group (Eddy et al. 2020).

Negative outcomes:


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 comprised of:

  1. The Therapeutic Early Childhood Classroom Program (TECCP) run with small groups of children by early childhood  trained teachers and volunteers
  2. Home visiting, in which early childhood program teachers work to support parenting skills, promote the parent/child relationship, and provide referrals
  3. Group-based parent education and support services.

Mental health and special education services are integrated into the classroom on an as-needed basis. All children participate in developmental screening. Other services are provided as needed, including respite care, child nutrition, transportation to and from services, and individual and family counselling. Staff offer the program in the parents’ primary language and food is provided.

How much does it cost?

Information not available.

What else should I consider?

The study found that the program providers had difficulty engaging the families in group-based parenting program components, and experienced low levels of engagement across all program components. Only 60% of families engaged with the program, and these were families who were provided transport. The levels of engagement dropped rapidly over time so that by 24 months into the study, only 11% were still receiving home visits, 12% still had a child in the TECCP, and 8% were receiving both.

Where does the evidence come from?

One RCT conducted in the USA with 180 primary care givers and 180 children (Eddy et al. 2020).

Further resources

Last updated:

16 Feb 2023

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