Policy Resource

Arkansas Promotes Stability for Very Young Children in the Child Welfare System

Sep 1, 2017

In Arkansas, state and community leaders recognize that stability for infants and toddlers in the child welfare system can be dramatically improved when stakeholders across service sectors work together to provide developmentally appropriate services.

The Arkansas Safe Babies Court Team, which began in the 10th and 11th Division Circuit Courts in Pulaski County and has since expanded to additional areas, exemplifies this vision by bringing together a team of more than 50 members from 12 different disciplines to provide comprehensive, developmentally appropriate support to infants and toddlers in the child welfare system.

The Court Team incorporates a developmental approach into child welfare services by engaging in the following strategies:

  • concurrent planning;
  • holding monthly Court Team meetings with all service providers to problem-solve systemic issues and track families progress;
  • facilitating Family Team Meetings for families involved with the Safe Babies Court Team;
  • increasing parent-child visitation; and
  • providing mental health services for birth parents and children to improve the parent-child relationship.

The community coordinator provides education to early childhood stakeholders on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, infant mental health, and the importance of attachment and boding at early ages.

Learn more about Arkansas’ Court Team approach in this article from ACEs Connection. The ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Team approach has been recognized by the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare as being highly relevant to the child welfare system and demonstrating promising research evidence.

In addition, Arkansas Project PLAY (Positive Learning for Arkansas Youngest) promotes quality and stability in child care for children within the foster care system. Project PLAY is a partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Education, and the DHS Division of Children and Family Services.

Project PLAY:

  • prioritizes early childhood mental health consultation services for centers serving children in foster care
  • engages in broad educational outreach about the importance of high-quality, stable child care placements to case workers, foster parents, the courts, and Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteers
  • creates materials for child care providers that better prepare them to support children who have experienced trauma

This description of Arkansas work is highlighted in ZERO TO THREE’s publication A Place to Get Started: Innovation in Infant and Toddler State Policies. Read the full brief at http://www.zerotothree.org/public-policy.

Updated July 2017

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