Thrive was an exploratory randomised controlled trial that ran from 2010-2013 and aimed to build the capacity of family day care educators to promote children’s social and emotional wellbeing through a multifaceted mental health promotion intervention.

Key papers

Project summary

Thrive was developed in response to compelling evidence of the importance of the early years of childhood for brain development and lifelong social, emotional and physical outcomes. This crucial development occurs largely in the context of child-caregiver relationships, such as between parents and children and in child care settings like family day care. When Thrive was conceived, family day care educators were not required to have minimum qualifications and even at Thrive’s completion, when mandatory minimum qualifications were introduced, educators still received little professional development specific to promoting children’s social and emotional wellbeing.  Hence, Thrive filled this professional need by working to increase the capacity of family day care educators to promote children’s social and emotional wellbeing in their care.

Thrive was an exploratory randomised controlled trial that was piloted in one family day care scheme in a rapidly growing urban corridor of Melbourne, that had a high proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Strengthening early childhood education and care experiences for children from disadvantaged backgrounds is especially important to their outcomes.

Participants were educators and co-ordinators from the family day care scheme who at different stages were involved in professional development workshops, peer-exchange networks, enhanced scheme visits and receiving specialised resources. Data collection consisted of a survey including information on costs, an in-home quality of care observation and process evaluation. Data was collected over 12-months (2011-2012), at baseline and one, six and twelve months post intervention.

A range of findings came out of Thrive (see key results papers), providing much needed information about family day care and promoting child mental health to academic, sector and policy audiences. Final results from the exploratory trial showed that interactions between educators and children had improved over time. Educators’ knowledge and confidence of children’s social and emotional wellbeing showed no significant change over the trial period. Thrive provided important information about the challenges FDC educators face relevant to implementing changes in their education and support. For a program like Thrive to be successful in engaging educators, a stronger framework for supporting additional learning activities at both the FDC organisational and scheme level is warranted.

Funding source

Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Research team

Thrive was developed in partnership with Windermere Child and Family Services, a non-government welfare agency in outer south eastern Melbourne that administers a large family day care program.

The research team included academics from other departments at the University of Melbourne as well as from other universities across Australia, including:

  • Dr Elise Davis
    Dr Elise Davis, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
  • Lara Corr
    Dr Lara Corr, Jack Brockhoff Child Health & Wellbeing Program
  • Professor Helen Hermann
    Professor Helen Hermann, University of Melbourne
  • Associate Professor Linda Harrison
    Associate Professor Linda Harrison, Charles Sturt University
  • Ms Lisa Smyth
    Ms Lisa Smyth, Family Day Care Coordinator, Windermere
  • Prof Margaret Sims
    Prof Margaret Sims, University of New England
  • Dr Kay Cook
    Dr Kay Cook, RMIT
  • Associate Professor Bernie Marshall
    Associate Professor Bernie Marshall, Deakin University
  • Professor Andrew Mackinnon
    Professor Andrew Mackinnon, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Cathy Mihalopoulos
    Dr Cathy Mihalopoulos, Deakin University

Dr Davis was supported by a VicHealth Public Health Research Fellowship.

VicHealth are were an industry partner in Thrive.

This project is also supported by Family Day Care Australia through its Stakeholder Reference Group.