A Capacity Building Program to Improve the Self-Efficacy of Key Workers to Support the Well-Being of Parents of a Child with a Disability Accessing an Early Childhood Intervention Service: Protocol for a Stepped-Wedge Design Trial

Elise Davis, Dana Young, Kim Michelle Gilson, John Reynolds, Rob Carter, Utsana Tonmukayakul, Katrina Williams, Lisa Gibbs, Rachael Mcdonald, Dinah Reddihough, Jane Tracy, Jennifer Morgan, Paul Ireland, Cassie Kenyon, Rod Carracher

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Background: Early childhood intervention services support children with disabilities or developmental delays from birth to school entry with the aim to achieve optimal outcomes for children and their families. A transdisciplinary approach to delivering early childhood intervention, particularly the key worker model, is considered the best practice, where allied health professionals (eg, speech pathologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychologists, and special educators) and the family work together as a collaborative team to share information, knowledge, and skills across disciplinary boundaries, with a key worker coordinating and delivering most of the intervention to achieve the goals for the child and their family. Initial qualitative research demonstrated parents want their key worker to also support their mental well-being. Poor mental well-being of parents of a child with a disability is of relevance to key workers because of its association with poor child-related outcomes. One of the major challenges key workers report in supporting families is managing parent distress and, because of lack of confidence, is a secondary negative impact on their own well-being. Objective: This trial has been developed in response to the negative cycle of low professional confidence to support parents' mental health, increased key worker stress, and high turnover of employees working within a disability service setting. Methods: A stepped-wedge design is used to deliver and evaluate a capacity building intervention program, over a 9-month period, for key workers to improve both parent and staff mental well-being. The primary outcome is key workers' self-efficacy in supporting parental mental well-being. Secondary outcomes include manager self-efficacy in supporting key workers and staff perceptions of supervisory support, staff job-related mental well-being, parental satisfaction with their key worker, parental mental well-being, and cost-consequence of the program. Results: This study was funded in October 2014, supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project grant (Grant number 1076861). Focus groups and individual face-to-face interviews were conducted from February to November 2015 with 40 parents who have a child with a disability and 13 key workers to gain insight into how the disability service could better promote child and family health and well-being and to inform about the development of the trial. Conclusions: The stepped-wedge study design is practical and ethical for research with a vulnerable population group of parents of a child with a disability, providing high quality data with all participants exposed to the intervention by the end of the trial.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12531
Number of pages14
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Allied health
  • Capacity building
  • Cost analysis
  • Early intervention
  • Health services for persons with disabilities
  • Mental health

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