Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams

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.

Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams

The Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams (QIC-ITCT) 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 QIC-ITCT 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 QIC-ITCT 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 QIC-ITCT 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).

QIC-ITCT 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.

Our Experts

Alexandra Citrin

Alexandra Citrin

Senior Policy Analyst
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Sarah Morrison

Sarah A. Morrison

Director, Learning & Evidence
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