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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

Safe Babies Court Team: A Proven Solution

Evaluation is a critical component of the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Teams. Thus far the Safe Babies Court Teams has undergone two evaluations. The first, completed by James Bell Associates, looked at evidence of system change, knowledge among Court Teams stakeholders regarding the impact of maltreatment on early development, and short-term outcomes for infants and toddlers monitored by the Safe Babies Court Teams. 

The second, completed by Kimberly McCombs-Thornton, PhD, looked at the effect of Safe Babies Court Teams on time to permanency and how children exit the foster care system. It also examined how program components or client characteristics affected time to permanency.

Both evaluations used data from the oldest four Safe Babies Court Team sites: Des Moines, Iowa; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Results from both evaluations were overwhelmingly positive.  Key findings from the evaluations include:

  • 99.05% of the 186 infant and toddler cases examined were protected from further maltreatment while under court supervision. (JBA, 2009)
  • 97% of the 186 children received needed services. (JBA, 2009)
  • Children monitored by the Safe Babies Court Teams Project reached permanency 2.67 times faster than the national comparison group (p=.000). (McCombs-Thornton, 2011)

The full publications for both of these evaluations can be found below.

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James Bell Associates Evaluation of the Court Teams for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers (2009). This process and outcome evaluation examined three questions using site visits, interviews, focus groups, court observations, and document review.

The questions were:

  1. to what extent is there evidence that systems change is underway at each program site through implementation of the Court Teams model;
  2. what is the state of knowledge among Court Team stakeholders regarding the impact of abuse and neglect on early development and the needs of maltreated infants and toddlers who come through the courts;
  3. and, what short-term outcomes result for infants and toddlers served by the Court Teams? 

To view the full evaluation, click here.

Fostering a Permanent Home: A Mixed Methods Evaluation of the ZERO TO THREE Court Teams for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers Initiative (2011). Kimberly McCombs-Thornton, PhD of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted a mixed methods, evaluation to assess the effect of the Safe Babies Court Team Project on a child’s time to permanency. Dr. McCombs-Thornton utilized two populations: children served by the initial four Safe Babies Court Teams, and a nationally representative sample of young child welfare participants found in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Using these populations, Dr. McCombs-Thornton answered three questions:

  1. Does the Court Team have an effect on time to permanency;
  2. Does the Court Team influence how children exit the foster care system;
  3. And do program components or client characteristics contribute to time to permanency?

 To view a PowerPoint presentation of the key findings, click here.



Safe Babies Products
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Safe Babies Court Teams: 10 Core Components Full
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A Brief History of The Safe Babies Court Teams Project
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Safe Babies Court Teams: 10 Core Components
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