A recent evaluation found that families involved in our programming have fewer subsequent child welfare cases than families who had not received enhanced support.
A wide range of factors, from poverty to systemic racism, contribute to the high number of Black and Brown children in the child welfare system. Once there, children are often separated from their families, experiencing out-of-home placements and prolonged cases in family court that add to the stress and disruption in their lives.
As part of our commitment to transform the legal system, the Center for Court Innovation emphasizes prevention and healing. This is especially true in our work with young children. For six years, we have worked with court-involved families and their children, from newborns to 3-years-olds, to minimize the harms of justice involvement and improve outcomes. Because infancy is the most formative 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.
We make improving family wellbeing a priority by encouraging healthy attachment between child and caregiver and seeking to reunify children with their parents when safely possible. We also promote a more collaborative approach in court, educating judges, lawyers, and caregivers about early childhood mental health and building a network of community-based services to minimize trauma and provide people with a supportive foundation to build their families.
The Center’s work with young children fills gaps in the current approach to court-involved infants by supporting their development and emotional well-being throughout the often lengthy court process and contributing to the well-being of their families and communities.
“I would love every baby who needs it to have the option to have a Strong Starts coordinator in New York. There is an opportunity to use the court as a port of entry into helping and healing systems and preventing further maltreatment. We should see it as an investment in communities.” – KIRAN MALPE, clinical director, Strong Starts Court Initiative