Home/About/Media/ZERO TO THREE Awarded $3 Million Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Expand Infant-Toddler Court Program

ZERO TO THREE Awarded $3 Million Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Expand Infant-Toddler Court Program

Mother feeding baby with a bottle

National initiative awarded grant to improve the health and well-being of infants, toddlers, and families in the child welfare system.

WASHINGTON – ZERO TO THREE, the leading nonprofit dedicated to ensuring babies and toddlers have a strong start in life, announced today that it has been awarded a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Service. The grant will fund the expansion of the Infant-Toddler Court Program, a national initiative to improve the health and well-being of infants, toddlers, and families in the child welfare system.

SBCT Press Release Infographic

“Every six minutes, a baby or toddler is removed from his or her parents’ care due to abuse or neglect and sent to live in a new home. For our youngest children, the threat of maltreatment arises at a crucial time in life, when early experiences are shaping the brain’s architecture into a foundation for learning, health, and future success,” said Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of ZERO TO THREE. “We are grateful to HHS for this funding opportunity, which will allow us to ensure more babies are surrounded by loving adults and have every opportunity to become a happy child and a curious learner.”

The Infant-Toddler Court Program will support wide-scale implementation of the proven Safe Baby Court Team™ (SBCT) approach of transforming child welfare into the practice of child well-being by using the science of early childhood development. The program connects babies and their families with the support and services they need to promote healthy child development, while at the same time ensuring speedier exits from the system and faster permanency.

ZERO TO THREE will lead this initiative in partnership with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, the Center for the Study of Social Policy, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and RTI International. Ten demonstration sites will participate in the initiative and its evaluation over the project period. The 8 participating sites in Year 1 represent geographic and regional diversity and implementation readiness:

  • New Haven County, Connecticut
  • Broward, Palm Beach, and Pinellas County, Florida
  • Polk County, Iowa
  • Forrest and Rankin County, Mississippi
  • Pierce County, Washington

As part of its mission, the Infant-Toddler Court Program will also provide targeted technical assistance or outreach to 50 sites across the country exploring uptake of SBCTs. To ensure that its work is based on the latest science and best practices, the program will be supported by experts in judicial leadership, attorney practice in the child welfare system, infant and early childhood mental health, mental health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment, bias and racial equity, and trauma-informed care.

An evaluation of the SBCT approach revealed children supported by a SBCT:

  • Reached permanency sooner; 83.7 percent of children with closed cases reached permanency in 12 months, double that of the national standard of 40.5 percent established by the Children’s Bureau.
  • Found permanency with a family member; Nearly two-thirds of children supported by SBCT found permanent homes with members of their families, compared to just one-third of babies and toddlers in general population foster care.
  • Experienced fewer out-of-home foster care placements; 94.2 percent of children in care for less than 12 months had two or fewer placements, compared to the median of 85.6 percent.
  • Received access to support services; 90 percent of children identified in need of a service received their first appointment, over half within 30 days of referral.

Learn more about SBCT.


ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Since 1977, the organization has advanced the proven power of nurturing relationships by transforming the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers. For more information, and to learn how to become a ZERO TO THREE member, please visit zerotothree.org, facebook.com/ZEROTOTHREE or follow @ZEROTOTHREE on Twitter.

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