One of Australia's leading and oldest charities has painted a bleak picture of disadvantage among Australian children.
A new report compiled by the Benevolent Society found Australia has the fourth highest rate of children living in jobless families in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The report also shows one in five Australian children are vulnerable in one or more developmental areas when they start school.
The Benevolent Society said the report highlighted the urgent need to invest in new ways for early intervention to support vulnerable families, even before children are born.
The society's chief executive, Anne Hollonds, said while the merits of early intervention were well known, the evidence was being ignored.
"That's when the fundamentals are laid, if you like, the foundations of later development.
"And that's why we need to concentrate our efforts on investing more in those earlier stages of life, rather than waiting much later to react when it's less effective and far more costly," she said.
Ms Hollonds said the gold standard in early intervention was now modelled on integrated community hubs, but services around Australia are patchy.
"They're like one-stop shops where we're able to provide all the mental health, the physical health services, the family support services and the early childhood development support," she said.
Debbie, a single mother of three, said she is grateful for the support she has received from the charity's Early Years Centre in Brisbane.
"If it wasn't for my neighbour speaking up and saying, 'I think you need some help,' I don't think I would have my kids with me today," she said.
"I can guarantee you they'd probably be in foster care... which is not a stable situation for them to be in."
Christine Smith, a support worker from the centre who visited Debbie on a regular basis, said the Brisbane mother was struggling to deal with the stress of parenting.
"But the further we talked some more and did some home visits, there was other issues that arose."
Debbie wants struggling families to take heart from her experience.
"You've just got to speak up. No-one's going to know if you need help if you don't speak up," she said.
"Even though they know your situation, they don't judge you. They accept you with open arms."
She said the past 12 months have been the best 12 months of her life.
"I've grown as a parent and I've grown not just as a mother to my kids but also as a friend to them."