Professional Resource

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A Guide to Implementing the Safe Babies Court Team™ Approach

Oct 17, 2016

Every day we learn more about how to support communities in improving the experience of infants and toddlers in foster care. After more than 10 years of building Safe Babies Court Team sites in communities around the country, it is time to produce a detailed “how to” guide.

The Guide to Implementing the Safe Babies Court Team™ Approach includes 12 chapters that cover a comprehensive list of topics important to implementing the Safe Babies Court Team approach. Focused on collaboration with families whose young children are in foster care and across child-serving systems, this volume is a community organizing tool for improving our response to maltreatment of infants and toddlers. The online document includes a wide array of forms, checklists, and examples to bring the work to life in a tangible way that supports your ability to put this system into action.

Throughout the manual, we have placed a strong emphasis on how we as professionals interact with one another and with the families who are faced with child maltreatment allegations. For example, Chapter V: Meeting Parents Where They Are: Special Challenges for Parents Involved in the Child Welfare System describes ten important issues that may be confronted by parents served by Safe Babies Court Team sites:

  1. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
  2. Other Drugs of Choice
  3. Domestic Violence
  4. Poverty and Homelessness
  5. Historical Trauma and Racial Equity
  6. Don’t Forget Fathers
  7. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Parents
  8. Teen Parents
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Mental Illness

In order to work effectively with all families, we articulate a stance of openness, termed “not knowing,” in our interactions with one another that helps prevent our assumptions from clouding what is really going on in a family’s life, or in the decision-making of another member of the family’s team:

Not knowing. The Community Coordinator needs to model active listening. “True listening comes from a stance of ‘not knowing,’ in which we are open to imagining our way into another’s feelings, even when they are not our own. Listening requires a willingness to stay present with difficult, intense feelings while at the same time conveying a feeling of safety, offering another person a sense of being held securely. Most important and most challenging, listening requires being mindful of how our own feelings, memories, and experiences are stirred up; to be fully present, we must be able to manage our own reactions.” (Gold, 2016). We all try to make sense of the world around us. Over the years, starting from much earlier than we have conscious memories, our world view forms. We come to believe that our perspective is the correct perspective. When we are presented with new information or an unfamiliar situation, we apply our world view to it. Our interpretation may not correspond to another person’s because we don’t have access to the other person’s world view. Only by practicing not knowing, can we begin to appreciate the reasons governing others’ behavior. While listening to colleagues and to parents, not knowing allows the CC to explore the world as seen by others. Armed with a fuller appreciation of the other’s perspective, the CC must be able to transcend his or her own point of view and acknowledge multiple—equally legitimate—ways to see a particular situation. An important question to ask yourself is: Am I trying to enforce my opinion because it truly increases this person’s well-being OR am I insisting on my opinion because I am more comfortable with a solution that conforms to my world view?

A Guide to Implementing the Safe Babies Court Team Approach will be available online in December 2016.


Reference

Gold, C. M. (2016). The silenced child: From labels, medications, and quick-fix solutions to listening, growth, and lifelong resilience. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.

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