Protecting babies in the foster care system.
Safe Babies seeks to lessen the long-term impact of neglect, increase the likelihood of reunification, and ensure policies that guide the movement of infants and toddlers in the child welfare system are developmentally informed. Together we can build a better system for maltreated infants and toddlers by addressing service protocols and making visitation better for all involved.
Why focus on Infants and Toddlers?
- Babies can’t wait. Their sense of time and rate of development is vastly different from that of adults.
- Infants and toddlers make up the largest age group of all maltreated children.
- 39% of confirmed abuse and neglect cases in Texas are infants and toddlers.
- 39% of children in Foster care are under age 5.
- 80% of core brain development happens before a child turns age 3. During this time, the brain is setting up learning processes and how it will manage stress, emotions, and change.
- Lack of predictable experiences, such as multiple foster care placements, not only disrupt healthy development, but can prevent a child’s ability to develop key self-regulation and social skills that will be needed throughout their life.
- National data shows that compared to their older peers, infants and toddlers are more likely to enter foster care placement, remain longer in care, and become adopted.
- Young children in foster care are much more likely to experience delays in emotional, social, and cognitive development.
- 82% of young children in foster care show elevated signs of stress (cortisol), which inhibits healthy brain development.
- Current Child Welfare and Legal Systems are not set up to meet the needs of infants and toddlers, especially that of repairing the relationship between parent and child after maltreatment.
- Repairing the attachment bond between parent and child is held as a priority from the beginning.
- Cases should be approached from a developmental (mental health and cognitive) lens of the child, not based on a philosophical belief, traditional belief or merely balancing the interests of the adults.
- Every parent has the potential to be a great parent, and as a community we can coordinate resources to get them there.
- We should already be on the road to progress by the 60 day statutory hearing. Babies can’t wait. Their sense of time and rate of development is vastly different from that adults.
- Coparenting: One of the most important factors that supports the healthy development of social-emotional skills, self-regulation skills, and brain development is consistency. Bringing birth and foster parents together to focus on the child’s needs, allows for the exchange of information and expectations with regards to the care of the child. It also allows for a less traumatic separation and reunification experience.
- Just imagine what a simple “cheat sheet” could do: Make foster parent aware of important development of health, sleep, feeding, social, and emotional considerations to ease transition for child.
- Coordination: Nationally, only about 25% of children receive the required physical and mental health screenings. Through intentional coordination, other counties across the country have brought this to 95%.
- Coordination: Too often a parent’s need to be guided through the system is reflected as a lack of commitment at the 60 day statutory hearing. Coordinating therapy and other services for the parent and child is essential to the overall success. By bringing together those stakeholders who offer these services, we can develop a plan to overcome current barriers to accessing services.
- Education: Technical Assistance: By providing a “deeper understanding of how health, early childhood development, attachment, placement, and safety interrelate,” those involved in the decision making process can promote more positive outcomes for infants and toddlers.
- Continuous Evaluation: As this is a pilot, continuous evaluation and the ability to adjust as we move forward with the project will be essential to the overall success.
Safe Babies Partners:
- 323rd District Court
- Cook Children’s: Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment
- Challenge Tarrant County
- District Attorney’s Office
- DFPS: Child Protective Services
- Early Childhood Intervention of North Texas
- Kids First
- Our Community. Our Kids.
- TCU: Institute for Child Development
- New Day Services
- Covenant Kids
- Foster Parents
- Youth Law Center (Consultant)
Pilot and planning made possible by grants from The Meadows Foundation
Questions? Please contact Matt Willoughby at email@example.com