Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Clinical Health Sciences (Health Research Methodology)


Gina Browne



Committee Member

Susan Jack, Stephen Birch


Background – Universal family drop-in centres (drop-ins) are open to all children between the ages of zero and six and their carers regardless of ethnoracial make up and socioeconomic status. Provincially-funded drop-in centres offered by Aboriginal organizations address the need for culturally sensitive services for urban Aboriginal children (UAC) meanwhile promoting early learning opportunities for all children. Knowledge of factors that influence Aboriginal carers’ use of a culturally sensitive drop-in centre will inform policy-makers about the structures and resources required to ensure equitable access to drop-in centres for UAC.

Objectives – A pilot study to: 1) assess the feasibility of identifying and recruiting UAC with children between the ages of zero and six for optimal identification of the population in need of services; 2) describe the factors that influence the use of an Aboriginal early learning drop-in centre by carers of UAC between the ages of zero and six as perceived by service providers, users of the service, and non-users.

Methods – A qualitative descriptive study was conducted. A purposeful sample of 12 participants was selected. All service providers were invited to participate. Snowball sampling was used for users; convenience sampling was used for non-users. Semi-structured interviews with all participants were used to collect data. Directed content analysis was used with the Availability-Affordability-Acceptability framework for access to services to analyze interview data. Interviews between groups were compared and contrasted to confirm findings. During the research process, field notes of observations and reflections were recorded to address feasibility issues.

Results – Of the 12 eligible carers approached, 10 carers consented. Of the ten, nine carers were interviewed (4 users; 5 non-users). Recommendations for large-scale study protocol were: use of three categories of carers (current users; previous users; non-users); include non-Aboriginal carers of UAC in the sample population; recruit carers who live in the same neighbourhood where the service is located; provide detailed instructions for recruitment to gatekeepers. Key findings of the factors influencing use of the service were proximity of service to carer’s home, the carer and child having unstructured time, the type of Aboriginal-based content offered at the service, the carer’s trust of service providers, presence of social support, and carer’s sense of safety.

Conclusions – This pilot study suggests that conducting a large-scale study to identify factors that influence the use of an Aboriginal-based universal family drop-in centre as perceived by carers of urban Aboriginal children and service providers of the service is feasible with some methodological modifications. Recommendations for change are outlined.

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