Policy Resource

Safe Babies Court Team: A Proven Solution

Download Files Mar 15, 2016

Evaluation is a critical component of the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Teams. Learn more about the successes and outcomes from the work of the Safe Babies Court Teams.

Thus far the Safe Babies Court Teams have undergone two evaluations and a cost analysis. The first, completed by James Bell Associates, looked at evidence of system change, knowledge among Court Teams stakeholders regarding the impact of maltreatment on early development, and short-term outcomes for infants and toddlers monitored by the Safe Babies Court Teams.

The second, completed by Kimberly McCombs-Thornton, PhD, looked at the effect of Safe Babies Court Teams on time to permanency and how children exit the foster care system. It also examined how program components or client characteristics affected time to permanency.

Evaluation findings indicate that the [Safe Babies Court Team] is a promising approach for promoting greater collaboration between the courts, child welfare, and the community to meet the needs of very young children in foster care and to realize positive safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes.

James Bell Associates, 2009

Both evaluations used data from the oldest four Safe Babies Court Team sites: Des Moines, Iowa; New Orleans, Louisiana; Fort Bend County, Texas; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Results from both evaluations were overwhelmingly positive. Key findings from the evaluations include:

  • 99.05% of the 186 infant and toddler cases examined were protected from further maltreatment while under court supervision. (JBA, 2009)
  • 97% of the 186 children received needed services. (JBA, 2009)
  • Children monitored by the Safe Babies Court Teams Project reached permanency 2.67 times faster than the national comparison group (p = .000). (McCombs-Thornton, 2011)

The full publications for both of these evaluations can be found below.

James Bell Associates Evaluation of the Court Teams for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers (2009)

This process and outcome evaluation examined three questions using site visits, interviews, focus groups, court observations, and document review.

The questions were:

  1. To what extent is there evidence that systems change is underway at each program site through implementation of the Court Teams model?
  2. What is the state of knowledge among Court Team stakeholders regarding the impact of abuse and neglect on early development and the needs of maltreated infants and toddlers who come through the courts?
  3. What short-term outcomes result for infants and toddlers served by the Court Teams?

Download the Full Evaluation below.

A Mixed Methods Evaluation: Moving Young Children From Foster Care to Permanent Homes (2011)

Kimberly McCombs-Thornton, PhD of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted a mixed methods evaluation to assess the effect of the Safe Babies Court Team Project on a child’s time to permanency. Dr. McCombs-Thornton utilized two populations: children served by the initial four Safe Babies Court Teams, and a nationally representative sample of young child welfare participants found in the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Using these populations, Dr. McCombs-Thornton answered three questions:

  1. Does the Court Team have an effect on time to permanency?
  2. Does the Court Team influence how children exit the foster care system?
  3. Do program components or client characteristics contribute to time to permanency?

Download a summary of the evaluation below.

Investing in Our Most Vulnerable: A Cost Analysis of the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Teams Project (2012).

The focus of this analysis is on estimating the full costs of an innovative effort to improve the experiences of young children in the child welfare system, the ZERO TO THREE Safe Babies Court Teams initiative. In the ZTT Court Teams model, a family or juvenile court judge works with a community coordinator to convene a team of local child welfare and service system representatives. This court team is charged with identifying the needs of young children in the local child welfare system and developing a plan for addressing these needs. The plan specifically details how the local system will address the needs of children up to the age of three years old at entry into the child welfare system. At the heart of the plan is the community’s approach to holding monthly case reviews, often taking the form of monthly hearings. It also defines plans for how the community will address the other core components of the court team approach including referral to child-focused services, mental health intervention (i.e., child-parent psychotherapy), and ZTT national office activities (i.e., training and technical assistance, resource materials, and program monitoring and assessment).(Hafford & DeSantis, 2009; McCombs, 2007).

Download the article below.

Becoming an Evidence-Based Practice

In 2014 the Safe Babies Court Teams Project was added to the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare with a scientific rating of 3 which signifies promising research evidence, high child welfare system relevance, and a child welfare outcome of permanency. Click here to learn more..

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