National Infant-Toddler Court Program
Adverse childhood experiences leave a lasting mark
According to our State of Babies Yearbook, 20.7 percent of infants and toddlers experience one adverse childhood experience, and 7.7 percent experience two or more. Each of these traumatic experiences increases a child’s risk of mental health disorders, heart disease, and economic insecurity as an adult if there are no protective factors or interventions provided. Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children have faced decades of institutional and interpersonal racism and are at even greater risk for adverse childhood experiences, but solutions exist and make a difference. The National Infant-Toddler Court Program works with states and communities to build their capacity to address early adversity families face and prevent the removal of infants and toddlers from their parents. Every child is filled with enormous potential, and we have a shared responsibility to support that development.
Our response to adversity matters. Young children thrive best when surrounded by responsive and caring adults. The National Infant-Toddler Court Program works to reduce the overbearing load of stress for families. Through our work with states and communities, we help them understand the weight poverty, domestic violence, and mental health challenges have on families and how that can affect the relationship parents have with their young children. We can support families by building entry points for screening and assessment and treatment opportunities that will enable parents to develop those positive foundations for their young children.
For families already involved in the child welfare system, the National Infant-Toddler Court Program helps states, communities and professionals connect with the families, understand their needs, and establish needed concrete supports and services. We also work with individual parents and family-led advocacy groups to ensure that parents have a voice and are supported as leaders in the system change. We focus on collective, system-level changes that shift the mindset from individual responsibility toward our shared responsibility to set up effective systems and equitable social conditions by:
- Building a state/community’s capacity and structure to work collectively with families at the center of decision making
- Developing and expanding resources for professionals and advocates through the Infant-Toddler Court Program National Resource Center
- Identifying an equitable, individualized continuum of services for infants, toddlers and their families
- Assisting states/communities in evaluating their current Infant Toddler Court Team based on the Safe Babies Court Team™ approach for continuous quality improvement, sustainability, and expansion
- Advocating for change in federal/state child welfare policy, as part of the ZERO TO THREE policy team.
Child and family adversity is a public issue, a preventable problem, and a solvable problem.
We all have a stake and role in outcomes that matter for young children and their families.