The Safe Babies Court Team in Omaha, Nebraska, was established in February 2009. Working in conjunction with Judge Douglas Johnson’s Family Drug Treatment Court, the team meets monthly to identify and address system issues causing delays in service implementation, identify additional services available within the community, expand available services, and provide and plan training for professionals throughout the community. The focus is on getting wraparound services in place as early as possible, with an emphasis on maximizing family time.
In order to support participants, and to ensure that any service delays are kept to a minimum, ZERO TO THREE Family Drug Treatment Court is held every Tuesday morning. In the beginning, participants are required to attend weekly. Attendance requirements decrease as participants progress through the four phases of the program, but all participants are required to attend at least once a month. Additionally, participants who are not scheduled are welcomed to attend in order to support other participants or to address concerns they would like to address prior to the next scheduled session.
In the interest of maximizing family time, many children in the program are placed with at least one biological parent. This is accomplished by using informal supports such as arranging for a parent and child to reside with a grandparent who is willing to supervise contact. Working in conjunction with treatment providers who allow clients to have their children placed with them in their program is another way to maximize family time. Whenever children cannot be placed with their parents, the team strives to schedule family time daily with at least 5 days of contact every week.
When the Court Team was established, there were already professionals within the community trained to provide Child-Parent Psychotherapy, an evidence-based practice that helps to improve parenting while strengthening the bond between parent and child. Unfortunately, this intervention was not being used for children in foster care, as the service is not approved through Magellan, the organization that manages Omaha’s Medicaid funds. The Court Team worked with the Center on Children, Families and the Law, through the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, to help secure a grant that covers parent-child assessments and Child-Parent Psychotherapy where recommended for the children in the project, the other juvenile courts in the county, as well as the juvenile courts in two neighboring counties.
Providers throughout the community are regularly invited to attend Court Team meetings and share information with the team about services available through their agency. Through this practice, the Court Team has identified new services that are now available to families in the project. For example, a wide variety of career services are available through the Women’s Center for Advancement, including help with resumes, interviewing skills, and makeovers, and access to the career closet where moms can get clothing for interviews and a week’s worth of business clothes once they have obtained new employment.
The Court Team participates in and provides training throughout the community. Topics covered include evidence-based practices such as Child-Parent Psychotherapy and the impact of trauma on the developing brain. In addition, Court Team members have attended several national trainings, including ZERO TO THREE’s National Training Institute held in Washington, DC, in December 2011.
Of the Omaha Court Team’s cases, 100% are referred for Part C assessments. The team is working to have more of the children receive face-to-face assessments to ensure that 100% of those in need of services are identified. The team is also actively working to find ways to access chemical dependency and psychological evaluations in a timelier manner for individuals in the program and community. The Omaha Safe Babies Court Team continues to strive to serve families in the program, while also working to make a difference for all families in the community who become involved in the child welfare system.