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News Release - Manitoba

June 14, 2010

Families First Program Helps Create Secure, Nurturing Homes for Children: Report


Province Recognizes Importance of Program's Home Visitors to Children, Family: Rondeau

The Families First home-visiting program has helped families develop stronger parenting skills and connect with supports within their communities, according to a new evaluation report released by Healthy Living, Youth and Seniors Minister Jim Rondeau today, as he celebrated the program’s staff during Home Visitors Day.
 
“Families First has made a measurable difference in the lives of families and children across the province,” said Rondeau, who is also the chair of the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet. “On behalf of all Manitobans who have benefited from their support and advice, I’d like to commend the home visitors who are at the heart of this innovative and important program.”
 
Home visitors from Families First help connect families with the supports they need.  The Families First evaluation, the most comprehensive review of its kind in Canada, found that participating families:
·         developed stronger positive parenting skills, such as encouraging their children and playing games or sports with them;
·         decreased negative parenting practices, such as comparing their children to others;
·         increased social supports through families and community organizations;
·         felt a stronger connection to their community; and
·         strengthened mothers’ sense of control in their environment, self-acceptance and overall purpose, commonly used indicators for mental health and well-being.
 
The importance of mental health was identified in the evaluation report. The program showed some improvements for participating mothers, but some continued to struggle with depression or other issues. In response to these findings, Manitoba is working with pilot sites to identify ways to strengthen the Families First program by increasing the mental-health training available to home visitors and public-health nurses and collecting detailed information about the mental health of participating women.
 
“Across the province, Families First Home Visitors are there to provide families a chance to grow stronger, before things become critical,” said Peter Olfert, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union. “They work with parents to problem-solve. They are a regular storehouse of information, putting parents in touch with the resources they need, whether it legal services, a shelter, or decent, affordable housing.”
                                                                               
Almost all mothers with newborns in Manitoba are contacted by a public-health nurse and this is how they can access the program, the minister said.  Families facing more challenges are given the opportunity to participate in Families First and matched with a home visitor who meets with the family on a regular basis, for up to three years.  Rondeau said the home visitor helps the family build a strong, healthy and nurturing relationship with their children by sharing information and suggesting activities tailored to each family’s situation such as:
·         health, safety and nutrition;
·         learning through play;
·         solutions to challenging situations;
·         accessing health-care and community resources;
·         healthy infant and child growth, development and learning; and
·         building strong family relationships.
 
The minister noted the program’s success hinges on its home visitors, who provide tailored information, support and advice to every family. To recognize their important contribution to the health and well-being of children and families, he proclaimed today as Home Visitors Day in Manitoba.
 
The evaluation was based on data collected by home visitors and public-health nurses between 2000 and 2007. The benefits highlighted in the report were considerably better than those found in previous evaluations of home-visiting programs in other jurisdictions. These results are encouraging, because early parental behaviours and a mother’s mental well-being have an impact on child development and safety, Rondeau said.
 
Eligible families have children ranging in age from prenatal to five years old and have a number of challenges, such as having children with congenital health problems, being teenage parents, parents with financial difficulties or parents with mental health issues. Families with a lower level of risk were included in a control group for evaluation purposes. Families First is provided to families at no cost.
 
The Families First program evaluation is available at www.manitoba.ca/healthychild/familiesfirst/evaluation.html.  
 
The Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet guides the development and implementation of cross-departmental policies and programs for children, youth and families. Currently chaired by Rondeau, the committee includes the ministers of Aboriginal and northern affairs; culture, heritage and tourism; education; family services and consumer affairs; health; housing and community development; justice; and labour and immigration.
 
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