Real Families: Meet Jess

Dec 19, 2019

Jess' two young children were removed from her care. She was angry and trusted no one. Until ZERO TO THREE believed in her.

“I never thought I would make it this far or be this happy in life. You believed in me so I could believe in myself – and others around me.”

It can be difficult to explain the work we do at ZERO TO THREE. We strive–of course–to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. We transform the science of early childhood into helpful resources, practical tools and responsive policies for millions of parents, professionals and policymakers.

But given our excitement about the breadth and depth of our life-changing initiatives such as our pioneering work in infant and early childhood mental health, our premier membership network of early childhood development professionals, and our HealthySteps pediatric primary care program, it’s nearly impossible to choose just one to talk about!

That’s why sometimes it’s important to take a step back and think about the real families we are serving every day. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Jess.

Jess was just 20-years-old when her two children, both under the age of 3, were placed into foster care. Jess herself had been in and out of the child welfare system as a child–she was sexually abused, and her mom’s alcohol abuse meant there wasn’t a caring adult there to support her.

Jess was angry and trusted no one. That’s when a ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Team in Des Moines changed her life.

It’s a troubling fact that babies and toddlers are the age group most likely to be removed from their parent’s care because of abuse or neglect. Recognizing the unique needs of young children in foster care at an especially critical time for parental bonding, our Safe Babies Court Team connects babies and their families with the support and services they need to promote healthy child development. At the same time, the Team works with judges to ensure the youngest in foster care can be safely reunited with their parents or adopted as quickly as possible–much, much sooner than the average in these type of cases.

With the support of Safe Babies Court Team, Jess was given the opportunity and resources to stabilize her living situation, focus on getting treatment, and learn positive parenting skills.

Today, Jess is married with five children. She has earned her GED, has a well-paying job and is getting ready to buy her very own house. Safe Babies Court Team helped Jess write a new chapter for her children, setting them on a strong path for the future.

In Jess’ words, “I never thought I would make it this far or be this happy in life. You believed in me so I could believe in myself – and others around me.”

ZERO TO THREE dedicates every day to changing the lives of babies and families like Jess’. The work is challenging, but the rewards are great.

This season of giving, you can help us continue to grow and support the village of baby champions–like you–through providing evidence-based resources, building capacity, and working directly with Jess and other families through programs like Safe Babies Court Team that help the most vulnerable. Please donate today.



  • Contact

    Ryan Sabot

    Director of Individual Philanthropy