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A new free service for families with a newborn - home visitation

A service popular in foreign countries, where specialists visit woman who are pregnant, have given birth or are raising children under age of 2 at their home, is now also offered in Lithuania. The aim is to help families acquire skills in caring for babies and treating children well, as well as to help mothers get a foothold in the labour market, recognise postnatal depression and prevent domestic violence.
Experience in other countries shows that this model reduces 60% of neonatal mortality, 31% reduces the likelihood of a second pregnancy within 2 years after the first birth, shows 38% decrease in cases when children are hospitalized due to injuries, and 31% less child abuse (4-15 years old), 46% decrease in youth (15-17 years) arrests for criminal activities.
"The period of having a newborn is a great gift for every mum and dad, but inevitably requires specific knowledge, especially if it is the first child in the family. Specialist support at that time is, according to the participants themselves, much needed. It is important that the professionals are not only concerned with the care of the baby, but also with the physical and mental well-being of the parents themselves", says Sandra Remeikienė, Head of the European Economic Area and Norway Programme Unit at the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA).
Family visitation services are currently provided in 12 municipalities across the country, through separate projects. Family visits are carried out by specialists who have completed a specially designed postgraduate programme at the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU). The curriculum and the service delivery model adapted to Lithuania were developed by LSMU in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania during the implementation of the project "Development of Home visitation early intervention model". The projects are administrated by CPMA. A total of EUR 1.4 million from the the Health Programme 2014-2021 funded by the Financial Mechanism of European Economic Area (EEA). The programme partner is the Ministry of Health.
Behaviour change intervention
It is a programme designed specifically for Lithuania to help families create a safe environment for newborns, to promote sensitive and responsible childcare, and to promote conscious parenting. The programme is based on the principles of the Nurse-Family Partnership programme, which has been widely used around the world for many years.
Specialists visit families in their homes. During visits, most attention is paid to the physiological and psychological changes in pregnant and post-natal women, the health and development of the child, the creation of a safe environment, the improvement of lifestyle, as well as career issues, with the aim to enable mothers to return to the labour market after a few years without too much difficulty.
A total of 325 families are currently being visited, starting at around 22 weeks of pregnancy. By the time the child turns two years old, the specialist will have visited the family 64 times. Most of the visited families are families who have just had a new baby.
"Although the programme is relevant to both parents, so far mothers are more involved. Currently, among the mothers who are visiting, there are minors, disabled mothers, older mothers, mothers with a first-born child and mothers with large families. So far, fathers have been more passive and reluctant to join the programme", says Prof. Aurelija Blaževičienė, Project Manager at LSMU.
The main mission of the service, according to the project manager, is to help mothers to reduce or avoid potential risks and to empower them to take care of their child safely.
Specialists have completed a special programme
Currently, there are 13 family visiting specialists working in Lithuania who have completed the postgraduate study programme. They are either nurses or midwives who have completed a special 72-academic-hour post-graduate (professional qualification development) programme at LSMU.
"During the training, professionals learn how to assess and determine whether the family is ready for parenthood, whether the home is a safe environment for a newborn, and how to prevent and recognise toxic relationships. They also gain knowledge on how to help mothers bond with their child, how to strengthen the psychological resilience of mothers and how to develop their social skills," says Blaževičienė.
Up to 70 additional specialists are planned to be trained after the project in order to make the service available to other municipalities in the future.
"We see the benefits and the need for this service and we are planning to train additional Family Visiting Specialists through the Lithuanian-Swiss cooperation programme. There is also a working group within the Ministry of Health to ensure that at the end of the project period, this would be a routine service providing support and prevention to Lithuanian families", says Gytė Sirgedienė, Head of the International Project Management Unit of the Ministry of Health.
More information about family visiting specialists can be found on 
About Health Programme:
The Health Programme in Lithuania aims to strengthen mental health services in communities and improve the well-being of children and young people. The programme's measures include the development of psychosocial support, youth-friendly health services, support for vulnerable children and young people, the establishment of one-stop help centres for children and families, training for parents through the Incredible Years programme, cooperation between families and health professionals, and the development of services and support for pregnant women, mothers giving birth, and mothers of children aged up to two years. In total, the Health Programme‘s budget for 2014-2021 is more than EUR 17.9 million. The implementation of the programme is administrated by the Central Project Management Agency (CPMA), the programme's partner is the Ministry of Health.
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