Editor’s Message –Young Children Involved in the Dependency Court

Judge Dean LewisJudges' Page Editor Judge J. Dean Lewis (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges


This issue of The Judges’ Page focuses on babies, toddlers and young children involved in dependency court proceedings.  The ZERO TO THREE National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families is the “go to” organization on issues affecting young children, and The Judges’ Page is pleased that Lucy Hudson, director of the Safe Babies Court Teams Project at ZERO TO THREE, has taken the lead on securing articles for this issue.

It is critical that those involved in the dependency court process be well informed on issues affecting young children. In fiscal year 2010, based upon preliminary estimates of the Department of Health and Human Services, the total number of children entering foster care was 254,375, with one half being from birth to five years of age. Young children entering care have historically been disproportionately children of color. Those involved in these cases should be trained to identify and address the unique needs of young victims of abuse or neglect through referral for appropriate screenings as well as delivery of critical interventions and supportive services. Special concerns for these children include:

  • Separation, attachment and bonding issues
  • Brain development implications
  • Physical, social and emotional developmental delays
  • Health and mental health complications
  • Consequences from exposure to the parents’ substance abuse
  • Prospects for educational difficulties

Judges can play a key leadership role to ensure that appropriate training occurs and that necessary services are in place. Additionally, Judges can encourage coordination and collaboration between child serving agencies, service providers, educators, the medical community, attorneys, child advocates, and CASA volunteers in child welfare cases involving maltreated young children. There is a compelling need to expedite safety, well-being and permanency in such cases. The impact on future outcomes for these children is too critical to do otherwise. In this issue of The Judges’ Page, judges and child welfare communities who have implemented such collaborative partnerships share their innovative and successful experiences with you.

Return to the table of contents for the March 2012 Judges' Page newsletter.

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