Improving Outcomes For Babies And Toddlers In Child Welfare: A Model For Infant Mental Health Intervention And Collaboration.
Chinitz, Susan. Guzman, Hazel. Amstutz, Ellen. Kohchi, Joaniko. Alkon, Miriam.
Published: August 2017
Child Abuse and Neglect
Vol. 70 , p. 190-198
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Children under three comprise a sizable and growing proportion of foster care placements. Very young children who enter the child welfare system experience disruptions of critical attachments that are essential to this formative stage of brain development, as well as other traumatic events, leaving them at great risk for lifelong impairments. To reverse these concerning outcomes, babies who have been removed from their homes require intensive, relationship-based interventions that promote secure attachment to a primary caregiver and holistic attention the child's developmental needs. Child welfare decision-makers must be informed of infant brain development and knowledgeable about the particular needs and circumstances of each child. This article describes a model with these features that has been developed and tested in the Bronx, New York, one of the nation's poorest urban counties with high rates of foster care. The Project utilizes evidence-based Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) as its core intervention, and emphasizes collaboration and information sharing– driven by the CPP clinician– with judges, child welfare workers, attorneys and other social service and mental health providers, thereby encouraging developmentally and relationally informed case planning and permanency decisions. The model is evaluated using pre and post treatment psychosocial measures and program outcome data. Results indicate improvement in parenting interactions, positive child welfare outcomes (including increased rates of reunification, fewer returns to foster care), and improved safety and wellbeing. Results highlight the need for child welfare practices to be more closely aligned with the current science of infant brain development, and to incorporate a specialized approach to address the unique needs of infants. (Author abstract)
infants; preschool children; mental health services; foster children; attachment behavior; child development; evidence based practice; psychotherapy; well being; child safety; family therapy