Young parents smiling at their laughing baby.

Infant-Toddler Court Program

Strengthening and supporting local jurisdictions to better serve young children and their families

What We Work For

We help local jurisdictions implement and sustain strategies to better serve young children and families involved with child welfare.

Often public systems operate in silos and in ways that create obstacles to meeting the needs of children and families. The lack of coordination can create barriers for young children in child welfare and their families, including longer stays in foster care and not being able to access necessary services in a timely fashion.

How We Do It

Using the latest information on brain science, childhood development, and trauma-informed care, we work with child welfare, court, and community stakeholders to provide resources to child welfare systems, early childhood systems, and the judiciary.  We work to better equip them to meet the needs of young children and their families in their care.

We implement research-based infant-toddler court teams, which are based on the Safe Babies Court Teams approach. We are also supporting sites in using the Race Equity Assessment Tool to ensure the approach is reducing rather than creating disparate outcomes for children and families of color.

This approach has been shown to be effective by focusing on the science of child development and trauma. It provides young children and their families with access to supports and services. In addition, it  builds capacity within communities so that systems are better able to support families. As a result, children and families experience better outcomes, including increased placement stability and access to services as well as shorter stays in foster care.

We believe that brain science and using trauma-informed approaches can transform the child welfare system and make it more focused on the people being served.

Infant-Toddler Court Program

The Infant-Toddler Court Program helps systems better serve their constituents by implementing infant-toddler court teams, which are based on the Safe Babies Court Teams (SBCT) approach. These court teams are focused on serving infants, toddlers, and their families and are made up of stakeholders within child welfare, the judiciary, and community-based organizations.

The SBCT approach hinges creating partnerships and collaborative efforts across all facets of this work. Through strong collaboration, stakeholders intervening with infants and toddlers in child welfare have the opportunity to learn from one another about the impact that can be made through adopting a developmental approach to understanding families’ trauma, healing, and recovery. Supporting all stakeholders in the co-creation of a court model that is informed by early childhood development, grounded in research, and tailored to meet the needs and values of their community—whether local or statewide—can help sustain the tenure of an infant-toddler court team approach.

Through expertise and strong collaboration, the Infant-Toddler Court Program promotes the demonstration projects; allows for collaborative resolution of systemic barriers; and encourages continuous input on key activities related to supporting a child and their family. The work is grounded in child welfare systems but requires investments and collaboration at the community and policy level.

The Infant-Toddler Court Team Program works in 12 local jurisdictions and states to help them better meet the needs of young children and their families involved with the child welfare system.

The Infant-Toddler Court Team Program is funded by the United States Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau and is operated by ZERO TO THREE and its partners, (CSSP, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and RTI International).

Infant-Toddler Court Program Outcomes

Evaluations conducted by RTI International have shown that children involved with the infant-toddler court teams have better placement stability, shorter lengths of stay in foster care, and better access to early intervention screenings compared to the national data.

Infant-Toddler Court Program Resources

Grounding Family and Child Well-Being Policies and Systems in Anti-Racist Principles and Strategies. The Center for the Study of Social Policy and the National Infant-Toddler Court Program (ITCP) at ZERO TO THREE released this brief to highlight principles and strategies that if implemented with an intentional focus on advancing equity and responding to communities, can support infant and toddler well-being and strengthen families with young children, consequently, preventing involvement in child welfare and other deep-end systems.

Advancing Equitable Outcomes for Infants and Toddlers Involved in Child Welfare. The goal of focusing on equity in child welfare is to help infant–toddler court teams ensure all eligible families are being given the opportunity and access to services that will help their children thrive. This brief suggests a process, tool, and various strategies to help teams focus on advancing equity, building on the work documented in the Safe Babies Court Team™ approach to provide context and direction for ongoing action. In addition, an accompanying fact sheet provides information on implicit bias and historical, structural, and institutional racism—all of which have a direct impact on children of color who are involved with child welfare and other public systems. 

Preparing A Funding Ask: Four Easy Steps. This resource provides support for sites seeking funding to sustain an aspect of a team based on the Safe Babies Court Team approach. Specifically, this document outlines a simple process to follow and provides a series of questions to answer to prepare for making a funding ask.

Child Welfare: Building, Developing, and Leveraging Collaborations. The second in a series of sustainability briefs from the Infant-Toddler Court Program, this brief focuses on the importance of collaboration in sustaining practice change. Each of the Infant-Toddler Court Program sites has developed and is continuing to create new collaborations to implement and sustain the SBCT approach in their local communities, which are highlighted in case studies throughout this brief.

Sustaining New Approaches in Child Welfare: A Framework for Sustainability for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams. The first in a series of sustainability briefs from the Infant-Toddler Court Program, this brief lays out a framework for sustainability and the key elements necessary to understand and leverage in order to sustain—and institutionalize—a new approach, practice, and/or delivery model. While each site faces unique opportunities and challenges that impact their strategies for sustaining the work, the guiding questions in this brief are intended to help frame local thinking and sustainability planning.

Sustainability of the Infant-Toddler Court Teams

A Framework for Sustainability infographic.

Our Experts

Arthur Argomaniz portrait.

Arthur Fidel Argomaniz

Senior Program Analyst
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Alexandra Citrin portrait.

Alexandra Citrin

Senior Associate
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Juanita Gallion portrait.

Juanita Gallion

Director, Capacity Building & Leadership Development
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