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Family Needs

While assessing the safety and placement options for young children has historically been a focus in child welfare, it is equally important that the child welfare system and court teams take steps to ensure that a young child’s health, mental health, and developmental needs are regularly assessed and addressed.
parents and two kids color on the floor

Because children who have been maltreated are so likely to experience developmental delays and medical problems, it is critical to connect infants and toddlers with a medical home with consistent primary caregiving by a pediatrician who comes to know the child and family.

It is important to understand that the parents participating in infant-toddler court teams were once children too, and many have significant abuse and neglect histories of their own. It is critical that court teams work with parents from day one to understand the challenges they are facing and connect parents to supports that will help them address their problems.

A key to improving the parent-child relationship is to recognize the resiliency that both parents and children display in the face of these experiences and to use a family-centered approach to identify families’ strengths and build on them to achieve optimal outcomes. The following resources support children and families in the child welfare system.

Basic Needs

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service works with State agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps keep families safe and healthy through initiatives that assist families with energy costs. We provide federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with: home energy bills; energy crises; and weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.

Housing Voucher Program
The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing.


Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Developmental Delays

Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (Part C of IDEA)
The Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, or Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is a federal grant program that assists states in operating a comprehensive statewide program of services and supports for children birth through 2 years old with developmental delays, including (at state option) children who are “at risk” of developing a delay or special need that may affect their development or impede their education.

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center provides resources and contacts regarding Early Intervention under IDEA. Visit their website here.

Making Hope a Reality: Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities
This issue brief from ZERO TO THREE provides background information and research on IDEA Part C as well as policy recommendations for supporting infants and toddlers.

Mental Health

Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health
Infant-early childhood mental health (I-ECMH), sometimes referred to as social and emotional development, is the developing capacity of the child from birth to 5 years of age to form close and secure adult and peer relationships; experience, manage, and express a full range of emotions; and explore the environment and learn—all in the context of family, community, and culture.

Infant, Toddler, and Early Childhood Mental Health Competencies: A Comparison of Systems
As interest increases in addressing the mental health needs of young children, so too has the interest in supporting the training and practice of service providers who work with young children and families. Workforce development has become a central policy issue in early childhood mental health, but providers generally receive very little training on the unique needs of young children. This report provides an update of a 2008 review of early childhood mental health competency systems.

Making it Happen: Overcoming Barriers to Providing Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health
This article is intended to illuminate the scientific evidence for I-ECMH policies; examine issues faced by national, state, and local program directors and mental health practitioners in providing I-ECMH services; and propose a set of recommendations for policy improvements at the federal level. Additionally, the article seeks to provide a context for the issues and barriers states face when financing services for those most in need and during a time when those services would have the highest rate of return.

CPP Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP)
CPP is an evidence-based treatment for trauma-exposed children aged 0-5. Typically, the child is seen with his or her primary caregiver, and the dyad is the unit of treatment. CPP examines how the trauma and the caregivers’ relational history affect the caregiver-child relationship and the child’s developmental trajectory.

Replication of Child-Parent Psychotherapy in Community Settings
Although COO has been shown to be effective for rebuilding the parent-child relationship, reducing trauma symptoms, and reducing depression in mothers, there are some challenges to training and disseminating the model. The authors of this article present two training methods that haven been anecdotally effective in training clinicians in the model.

Child-Parent Psychotherapy and Traumatic Exposure to Violence
This article illustrates the multidimensional impact of violence during infancy and the effectiveness of a relationship-focused treatment, child-parent psychotherapy (CPP), in addressing the traumatic consequences of exposure to violence.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term used to describe a range of conditions that can develop in a person whose mother drank alcohol during her pregnancy. These effects may include physical, mental, and behavioral challenges, and learning disabilities. The effects of FASD can range from mild to severe and can impact an individual across his life.

Improving Outcomes for Families Affected by Prenatal Alcohol Exposure
This screening guide gives your community the tools to identify the long term impact of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE), a critical challenge facing many parents and children involved in the child welfare system.

The Elephant in the Cradle: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
The goals of this article from the Zero to Three Journal are to: provide an overview of FASD; to increase knowledge about FASD and hence to increase the visibility of the disorders; and to educate more people on the harm of drinking during pregnancy to reduce the number of prenatally exposed births in the future.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): How Judges Can Improve Outcomes for Affected Children and Parents
The authors of this article provide extensive background on FASD and its prevalence among court-involved children and their parents, and introduce a draft of the FASD judicial bench cards.

A court team model for young children in foster care: The role of prenatal alcohol exposure and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
This article addresses foster care as an important opportunity to detect FASD and provide services to infants and children with FASD and describes a court-team-based model of care developed to improve management of children with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) or FASD entering foster care. The programmatic objectives include: enhancing detection of PAE; screening for FASD; increased consideration of FASD as a potential issue in treatment planning with foster parents; improved entry into treatment; and increased surveillance for parents with an FASD.

Mortality in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
This paper reviews published reports of mortality in FASD, and concludes that FASD is frequently undetected in mortality events and could be a common finding in infant, child, adolescent and adult mortality.

Substance Abuse

Substance Use Disorders
Dr. Kaitlan Baston, Medical Director for Addiction Medicine at Cooper University Health Care’s Urban Health Institute in Camden, New Jersey, and Dr. Larry Burd, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Director, North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center and FAS Clinic, discuss why and how substance use disorders (SUDs) are a medical condition; and share supportive, comprehensive care strategies one can implement to improve parent and child outcomes. To download the PowerPoint Slides click here

Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System
This bulletin from the Children’s Bureau provides child welfare workers and related professionals with information on the intersection of substance use disorders and child maltreatment and describes strategies for prevention, intervention, and treatment, including examples of effective programs and practices.

Drug Guide for Parents
This chart from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids shows the top 13 drugs most commonly abused by teens — including their street names, photos, drug effects and signs of abuse.

The Facts on Marijuana
This article from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals provides information about the effects of marijuana on the public at-large and briefly reviews the scientific evidence concerning the effects of marijuana.

Clinical Guidance for Treating Pregnant and Parenting Women with Opioid Use Disorder and Their Infants
This clinical guide provides comprehensive, national guidance for optimal management of pregnant and parenting women with opioid use disorder and their infants. The Guide is geared toward helping healthcare professionals and patients, determine the most clinically appropriate action for a particular situation and informs individualized treatment decisions.

Military Families

Supporting Military Families With Infants and Toddlers in the Child Welfare System
While a major component of life in the military is separation from family, it is difficult for any family to prepare for this separation. Returning home can be another challenging transition for family members, especially if the service member has experienced physical, cognitive, or psychological wounds. Family and individual support for these service members and their respective families are important both before and during deployment/separation from family, and as well as upon the return home. Support for military families with very young children in child welfare has to be approached with sensitivity and be a very well thought out process. This document from the QIC-CT provides important considerations and resources in this area.

Supporting Young Children
These brochures from ZERO TO THREE focus on the unique experience of parenting a baby or toddler, particularly during times of stress and separation that military families may be experiencing. Resilience is a major theme running through every brochure: the resilience of babies and toddlers, families, and the military community.

“Babies on the Homefront” Mobile App
ZERO TO THREE’s “Babies on the Homefront” is a free, downloadable app designed specifically for military and Veteran parents of young children. The app offers an array of written and video information to share with families, including behavior tips, parent-child activities, and parental self-care strategies. The app is available in both English and Spanish.

Additional ITCP Resources

Related Resources


We need your support now more than ever to ensure all babies have access to the quality care, services and support they need to thrive.