Strong Starts Court Initiative
The Strong Starts Court Initiative aims to enhance the capacity of Family Court to bring positive changes to court-involved babies and their families. Because infancy is the most plastic and receptive period of human development, adverse experiences during this time can result in lifelong impairments in health, social competence, and learning. Positive experiences, on the other hand, can set a secure foundation for physical and emotional well-being, healthy relationships, and skills needed for success. Children under six make up a disproportionate percentage of those entering the foster care system, and in 2013, the Bronx saw 711 children under the age of 2 involved in Family Court cases, accounting for 28 percent of total Family Court-involved children in the county.
How It Works
Aligned with research and developmentally-informed best practices, the Strong Starts Court Initiative fills gaps in the current approach to court-involved infants which can compound risks to infants rather than alleviate them. Infants often remain in out-of-home placements as cases drag on, sometimes for years. Limited contact with parents and frequent changes in care jeopardize this critical developmental period, and signs of developmental delays are often not identified or addressed. In addition, the complex needs of birth parents are not comprehensively assessed, resulting in inadequate or inappropriate service plans.
Launched in January 2015, the Strong Starts Court Initiative envisions a shift in court response to young children that would accomplish the following goals:
- Ensure that infants and parents receive comprehensive screening and assessment at entry into the child welfare system, and periodically thereafter, so that appropriate and targeted service plans are generated.
- Create a network of community-based service providers who are strongly committed to this population and project, including child development services, adult development services, and services required for family stability.
- Shift from an adversarial to a collaborative approach in addressing the needs of families. Hold frequent case conferences, inclusive of all service-providers, to ensure that child and family needs are being met, track individual progress, and address barriers to service provision or family progress. Frequent court appearances will permit a dedicated judge to monitor service provision and family response to services, and thus to work toward expedited permanency planning for infants and toddlers.
The Albert Einstein School of Medicine, the New York State Office of Court Administration, and the Bronx Family Court.