The Antenatal Support Service offers support to families who are expecting a baby which may be at risk. Sometimes these parents may struggle to establish positive attachment with their baby and may find it difficult to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Our volunteers work with the parents and other significant people in their lives. Together, they create a support plan designed to build on their strengths and identify areas where support is needed.
Who we work with
Local Children Service Management Groups, Midwives or Social Workers will refer pregnant or new mums who have not attended antenatal services, who may not be able to cope when the baby is born or who have a child identified “at risk”. This could be for many reasons:
- previous history of children being “at risk”
- teenage mums
- single parent
- lack of family support
- parents who have indicators of risk e.g. substance misuse, mental health problems
- low educational attainment
- English is not their first language
- several other children under school age
Volunteers will support parents to meet the needs of the child and achieve tasks as detailed in the child’s plan. The Project Coordinator will be the link between the Volunteer and the other professionals involved and will attend all core groups and case conferences associated with the unborn child/baby.
What we do
The families will be matched with a trained volunteer Befriender. Ideally this will be no later than the third trimester to allow the Befriender and parent to build a trusting relationship, but we will accept referrals up until the baby is eight weeks old. The Befriender will visit the family for 2–3 hours a week before the baby is born and for the first 12 months of the baby’s life.
Why we do it
The period before birth and in the early months and of life has a profound impact on a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Parents’ ability to provide a safe, stimulating, healthy and caring environment lays the foundations for their children’s successful social, physical and mental development.
“Insecurely attached infants are at greater risk of failure to thrive in early years and consequently are at greater risk of behaviour problems, lowered self-esteem and schooling difficulties in childhood and adolescence and more likely to suffer anxiety and depression in adult life.” (Dr Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Annual Report 2006).
Professor Susan Deacon reported that the "interactions between a child and parent - or other care giver- directly affect the architecture of the brain." (Joining the dots 2011:9). This is further supported by the practice executive summary "Grasping the nettle: early intervention for children, families and communities" (C4EO 2010), which states that intervention applied early will secure maximum impact and will have the greatest long term sustainability.
Home Link Family Support's aim is to work with parents-to-be and new parents who fall into the 59% of the pregnant population who do not take up antenatal or postnatal support, as well as those identified by Health and Social Work professionals as being "at risk" of not coping with their new baby, or where there is the potential for family breakdown and their child being taken into care.
Why it works
The Volunteer works with the whole family to ensure they are ready for the arrival of the baby. They provide practical and emotional support and help develop a trusting relationship to ensure the best possible start for the child. Rather than dictating, they build on the family's existing strengths to help them decide where they need help.
Befriending uses a systemic approach to improve the way the family functions, recognising that each individual has ties to many people, including close and extended family, teachers, social workers, health professionals and friends. Instead of seeing people in isolation, befriending works to support the whole family together. This is particularly relevant when the father is present and he will be encouraged to take an active role in preparations and after the birth.
The service covers Edinburgh and offers support to families who are expecting a baby in cases where Health and Social Work professionals think there are significant barriers to providing the baby with a safe, supportive and loving environment, or where there is a risk of the baby being taken into care. The support will be provided by trained volunteers, predominantly in the family home, for up to three hours a week from pre-birth until the baby is 12 months old.
We would ask that when discussing the referral with a family that the emphasis is on the positive nature of the support and what volunteers can do to help them.
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