A new program which aims to help keep children out of the foster care system will be piloted in four Melbourne municipalities, including two in the west.

The state government has provided Merri Health with more than $860,000 to trial the Family Foundations program in Wyndham, Brimbank, Hume and Moreland.

Merri Health will run the trial until the end of June this year, in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Drummond Street Services.

Under the program, 90 families – which are assessed to be at an increased risk of partner conflict and violence – will be supported during pregnancy or a child’s first year.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said the pilot program would be delivered in family homes, in an attempt to reduce conflict, promote parent mental health and strengthen parenting partnerships.

The Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos said the Merri Health pilot program was part of a wider government reform aimed at testing a range of evidence-based programs, to better protect children and keep them out of the child protection system.

The state government has invested $6.1 million in funding to run six trial projects and two existing programs, in seven locations across Victoria.

The pilot programs have been designed to focus on issues that include family conflict resolution for new and expecting parents, emotional awareness and how to address anti-social, suicidal and violent behaviour.

“We know prevention and early intervention are the most effective way of keeping kids safe which is why we’re investing in new trials that will help families provide a safe and stable home,” Ms Mikakos said.