‘Making the first 1000 days count!’ is a project co-developed by ICDI and our partner in Ethiopia, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). With this project we are focusing on the first 1000 days of children’s lives. We are putting into practice an innovative, holistic approach to community-based Early Childhood Development (ECD) environment for children 0-3 years, in seven communities in Ethiopia. The main pillars of the approach are: Community based non formal ECEC services (Play Hubs); Home visits; Shared community ownership; and improved health and social integration of children aged 0 – 4.
The Home Visiting Programme
The Home Visiting component of the project, aims to provide parenting support for the hardest-to-reach families of very young children. In the project, all families received an introduction visit to introduce the programme and assess the needs of parents and carers and offer them support and information. After the introduction visit, families were invited to access the services offered in the local ECEC Play Hubs. Families considered particularly vulnerable, received further support through a 4-month home visiting programme which involved bi-monthly home visits.
The goal of the visits is to reduce the stress parents and carers may experience in their parenting role by providing a listening ear, calm reassurance, support, and information. They are also intended to alert parents of the importance of establishing healthy connections with their babies and of building loving, trusting and supportive relationships with their children. During each visit the Home Visitors ask about the child’s and mother’s well-being and they engage in play activities together. The Home Visitors also leave some relevant information material with the family.
We developed a Home Visiting Toolkit to assist home visitors during their visits and help them engage with parents. The Toolkit contained information on the role of Home Visitor; how to conduct a home visit; activity cards according to the child’s age and developmental stage.
Evaluation of the Home Visiting Programme
In June 2020, we conducted an internal evaluation of the home visiting programme to assess the quality and impact of the home visiting programme after it had been running for 16 months and to identify areas needing further improvement.
On the basis of this evaluation, we can conclude that the programme is on its way to fulfilling its main objectives, specifically providing parenting support for the hardest-to-reach families of very young children. The Home Visitors have been successful in developing mutually respectful relationships with families, providing parents with guidance on everyday parenting struggles and with knowledge and information about prenatal and infant health and development; and how parenting changes as children grow and develop.
This evaluation has confirmed the importance of continuous mentoring and training for home visitors, so that they can provide a quality service to the families. It is also important that home visitors have opportunities to talk with their peers, mutually support each other, provide feedback and discuss pressing matters and common concerns. One gap in knowledge that was identified by the internal evaluation was around mental health. Therefore, it is planned to provide additional training about mental health in general and specifically about infant and maternal mental health.
What comes next?
Together with ESD, we are working on a follow up to the ‘Making the first 1000 days count’ project. All the recommendations and lessons learned acquired from this evaluation are being taken into consideration. The next phase of ‘Making the first 1000 days count’ project is expected to begin in February, 2021.