Infants and toddlers are the largest single group of children in foster care in the United States and have the highest rates of victimization across age groups (32 percent).
Following removal from their parents and placement in foster care due to maltreatment, young children typically remain in care longer—and are more likely to be abused and neglected—than older children. They are also highly vulnerable to the effects of multiple transitions that disrupt bonding and attachment.
This summary highlights the findings and recommendations from a process and outcome evaluation of the Court Teams for Maltreated Infants and Toddlers initiative as it was implemented in four jurisdictions. Zero to Three developed the approach, building on a successful model developed by the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Court.
Multidisciplinary teams of family court judges, child development specialists, child welfare and health professionals, child advocates, and community leaders ensure that vulnerable young children are closely monitored and receive the services they need. Key components include team training about the short- and long-term effects of maltreatment on young children, monthly court hearings and case reviews, child-focused services, infant mental health interventions, and evidence-based parenting education and interventions.
The study found that participating infants and toddlers achieved positive outcomes:
- Safety. Of 186 children served, 99 percent were protected from further maltreatment.
- Permanency. Of the 88 closed cases examined, 95 percent achieved permanency—through reunification (46.5%), placement with a fit and willing relative (30.6%), legal guardianship (4.5%), or adoption (13.6%).
- Well-being. Ninety-seven percent received needed services to meet identified needs, particularly for routine pediatric care and developmental screenings and services.