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Baby Leadership Learning Collaborative: Doing Better Together

Susan Dickstein, Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health, Providence, Rhode Island and Bradley Hospital/Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University; and Katherine L. Rosenblum, University of Michigan and Zero to Thrive, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The Baby Leadership Learning Collaborative (Baby LLC) initiative is a leadership group committed to bridging relationships across service sectors to promote infant–early childhood mental health and to break the multigenerational cycle of risk often associated with early adversity and trauma. Baby LLC has guided an early relational health focus within Rhode Island’s Safe and Secure Baby Court (SSBC) and leverages the power of creative partnerships for the benefit of the baby. The authors describe efforts to enhance collaboration among the family court, child welfare, a local birthing hospital, family home visiting programs, and university-based clinical research programs to expedite, improve, and individualize services for vulnerable families so they are better able to maintain healthy relationships with their babies.

Baby Leadership Learning Collaborative (Baby LLC) is an initiative of the Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health (RIAIMH), funded as a 3-year project, in part, by the Rhode Island Foundation’s Behavioral Health Fund. It was designed to create a community foundation of learning and action to achieve better outcomes for the infants and toddlers in Rhode Island’s (RI’s) child welfare system who were placed in out-of-home care. It also supports the promising results attained in the pilot year of RI’s Safe and Secure Baby Court (SSBC). Our story involves the application of infant mental health principles to effect systems change, to guide creative and courageous thinking so that we might do things differently. Baby LLC leaders were encouraged to recognize systemic problems with an eye toward prevention (“upstream”); to take ownership of problems without judgment; and to pause to see the bigger picture that involves multiple perspectives, options, and opportunities that are often missed in the press to fix problems (Health, 2020). Ours is a story about determination to expedite, improve, and re-envision services for families engaged in the child welfare system. We will briefly introduce Baby LLC, summarize the history of SSBC, and describe our foundational principles and initial objectives. We will share reflections taken from a discussion among Baby LLC stakeholders, in their own words, highlighting key insights and perspectives gained through the Baby LLC process.

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