Supporting Children’s Social Connection and Well-Being in School-Age Care: Mixed Methods Evaluation of the Connect, Promote, and Protect Program

Alyssa Clare Milton, Zelalem Mengesha, Kristin Ballesteros, Tom McClean, Saskia Hartog, Lucie Bray-Rudkin, Cathy Ngo, Ian Hickie

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Abstract

Background: School-age care, such as outside school hours care (OSHC), is the fastest-growing childhood education sector in Australia. OSHC provides a unique opportunity to deliver programs to enhance primary school–age children’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. Objective: This study aimed to pilot the co-designed Connect, Promote, and Protect Program (CP3) and conduct formative and process evaluations on how well the CP3 achieved its intended aims, ascertain areas for improvement, and determine how the CP3 model could be better sustained and extended into OSHC settings. Methods: A naturalistic formative and process evaluation of the CP3 implementation was undertaken at 1 and then 5 OSHC sites. Qualitative and quantitative feedback from stakeholders (eg, children, OSHC educators, volunteers, and families) was collected and incorporated iteratively for program improvement. Results: The formative and process evaluations demonstrated high program engagement, appropriateness, and acceptability. Co-design with children was viewed as highly acceptable and empowered children to be part of the decision-making in OSHC. Feedback highlighted how the CP3 supported children in the 4 CP3 domains: Build Well-being and Resilience, Broaden Horizons, Inspire and Engage, and Connect Communities. Qualitative reports suggested that children’s well-being and resilience were indirectly supported through the Broaden Horizons, Inspire and Engage, and Connect Communities CP3 principles. Matched-sample 2-tailed t tests found that children’s prosocial behaviors increased (mean difference=0.64; P=.04; t57=-2.06, 95% CI-1.36 to -0.02) and peer problems decreased (mean difference=-0.69; P=.01; t57=2.57, 95% CI 0.14-1.13) after participating in the CP3. Program feasibility was high but dependent on additional resources and CP3 coordinator support. Conclusions: To our knowledge, the CP3 is the first co-designed well-being program developed and evaluated specifically for OSHC services. This early evidence is promising. The CP3 may provide a unique opportunity to respond to the voices of children in OSHC and those that support them through creative and engaging co-designed activities. Our research suggests that CP3 provides OSHC with a framework and high-quality program planning tool that promotes tailored interventions developed based on the unique needs and preferences of those who will use them.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere44928
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJMIR Pediatrics and Parenting
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2023
Externally publishedYes

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