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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Partners

The Albert Einstein School of Medicine, the New York State Office of Court Administration, and the Bronx Family Court.

Featured Research

Publications

Meeting the Needs of Infants in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases: A Process Evaluation of the Strong Starts Court Initiative

Meeting the Needs of Infants in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases: A Process Evaluation of the Strong Starts Court Initiative

By Josephine W. Hahn

This report is a process evaluation designed to document the first nine months of the Strong Starts Court Initiative, a collaborative problem-solving approach for infants (three years or younger) and families involved in child abuse and neglect cases in Bronx Family Court.

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Interviews

Supervised Visitation: The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Unique Approach

Supervised Visitation: The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Unique Approach

Katheryn Lotsos and Stephen Forrester from the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children discuss their organization’s approach to supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is frequently required by courts in child welfare or domestic violence cases and allows children to meet with non-custodial parents in a secure and controlled environment. The Society's therapeutic model includes safety planning, parent education classes, special training for the professionals supervising the visits, and close collaboration with the courts.

Audio

Babies in the Child Welfare System to Get More Help in the Bronx, Along with Their Families

Babies in the Child Welfare System to Get More Help in the Bronx, Along with Their Families

Dr. Susan Chinitz, a psychologist with specialties in the areas of infant mental health and developmental disabilities in infancy and early childhood, and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, discusses the new Strong Starts Court Initiative, which will enhance the capacity of Family Court to bring positive changes to court-involved babies and their families. (April 2015)

Contact
  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • 601 Tully Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13204
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Canterbury Court
    1-3 Brixton Road
  • London, SW9 6DE
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060