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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 Teams: 10 Core Components

The Safe Babies Court Teams Project has 10 core components.  These components, implemented in each Safe Babies Court Team site, are critical for the project to function effectively and successfully.  Each core component is listed and described below.

Core Components

Judicial Leadership:  Each Court Team requires the leadership of a local judge who, because of their unique position of authority in the processing of child welfare cases, is a catalyst for change.

Local Community Coordinator: Each Court Team community requires a local Community Coordinator who provides child development expertise to the judge and the Court Team, and coordinates services and resources for infants and toddlers.

Active Court Team Focused on the Big Picture: Each community has a team of key community stakeholders devoted to restructuring how the community responds to the needs of maltreated infants and toddlers. The team meets monthly to learn about available services, identify gaps in services, and discuss issues raised by the cases that members of the Court Team are monitoring.

Targeting Infants and Toddlers in Out-of-Home Care: The Court Team focuses on foster care cases involving children younger than 36 months.

Placement and Concurrent Planning: To reduce placements, the Court Teams use concurrent planning, a technique which requires the quick identification of, and placement with, caregivers who are willing to become the child’s permanent family if reunification becomes impossible.

Family Team Meetings Monthly to Review All Open Cases: Each month, the Community Coordinator and a team of service providers, attorneys, and child welfare agency staff meet to review the family’s progress.

Child-Focused Services: Comprehensive developmental, medical and mental health services are incorporated into the case plan document to ensure that the child’s well-being is given primary consideration in the case. An additional emphasis is placed on finding the child a medical home.

Parent-Child Contact (visitation): Research shows frequent visitation increases the likelihood of reunification, reduces time in out-of-home care, and promotes healthy attachment.[1] The Court Team focuses on increasing visitation by expanding the opportunities (e.g. doctor’s appointments) and the locations (e.g. the foster home, the birth parents’ home) for parent-child contact.

Continuum of Mental Health Services: Children traumatized by their parents’ care, removal, and foster care may need mental health services. Their parents also need mental health services to help them overcome the reasons for their behavior. To meet these needs each Safe Babies Court Team develops a continuum of mental health services that includes services such as Child-Parent Psychotherapy.

Training and Technical Assistance: ZERO TO THREE staff and consultants provide training and technical assistance to the Court Team community on topics such as: infant and toddler development; parenting interventions; services available to foster children in the community; trauma; and parental substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty.

Evaluation: To evaluate its work, each Court Team collects information on: knowledge enhancement among child welfare professionals, systems change, and outcomes for children and families.

To learn more about these core components, click here.



[1] Smariga, M. (2007). Visitation with Infants and Toddlers in Foster Care: What Judges and Attorneys Need to Know. Washington, DC: American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and ZERO TO THREE Policy Center.

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