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Safe Babies

Safe Babies, a program of ZERO TO THREE, works to keep families together by preventing the need for babies and toddlers to enter out-of-home care, or to provide the best possible outcomes when child welfare is necessary.

One Program; Two Interventions

Safe Babies consists of two interventions: Safe Babies Court Teams, an evidence-based intervention for families entering Child Welfare with at least one child under three; and Best for Babies, an innovative approach to preventing newborns from entering Child Welfare.

Mission and Purpose

Safe Babies focuses on the critical periods of pregnancy, infant, and early childhood to prevent babies and toddlers from entering out-of-home care whenever safely possible. Recognizing some circumstances when out-of-home care cannot be avoided, Safe Babies strives to improve infant, toddler, and family outcomes through intensive oversight and community coordination.

Critical Need

Infants and toddlers are especially vulnerable, and adverse childhood experiences coupled with systemic social and health inequities contribute to their higher rates of involvement in the child welfare system. Safe Babies recognizes and addresses these challenges head-on, advocating for systemic change and providing essential support to keep families together.

Preventative Approach

Safe Babies emphasizes a preventative approach to child welfare, intervening early to address the root causes of family instability and prevent the need for babies and toddlers to enter the child welfare system. By focusing on prevention, Safe Babies aims to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and promote positive outcomes for children and families.

Community Collaboration

Safe Babies collaborates with communities, courts, child welfare agencies, service providers, and other stakeholders to create a collective impact and strengthen support systems for families. Through community engagement and partnerships, Safe Babies empowers local communities to take ownership of supporting and protecting their most vulnerable members.

Family-Centered Approach

Safe Babies prioritizes the well-being and agency of families, engaging parents and caregivers as partners in decision-making and case planning. Our family-centered approach recognizes the strengths and resilience of families and supports them in leading the way towards positive outcomes for their children.

The Impact of Safe Babies

Safe Babies meets the immediate needs of babies and toddlers through an innovative approach that strengthens early relationships with parents and caregivers, ensuring healthy development and well-being.

This program has demonstrated remarkable impacts in Colorado, changing trajectories for infants and toddlers under court jurisdiction and/or in foster care. Results show that children in the program are reaching permanency three times faster than infants and toddlers in the general foster care population. And almost two-thirds of babies and toddlers are reunified or find permanent homes with members of their families.

Long-Term Sustainable Impact

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    Improved alignment and integration across early childhood systems, including health, child welfare, early care and education, and other human services and family-support programs

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    Increased availability and accessibility of services and supports that address the social determinants of health

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    Changes in policies and practices at the national, state, and local level that ensure equity for families with young children

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    Lower rates of initial child maltreatment/neglect and reduced rates of repeat maltreatment

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    Reduced removal of children from families in underserved populations, including Black and American Indian/Alaska Native communities

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    Stronger parent protective factors

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    Improved child and family well-being

Safe Babies Court Team

The Safe Babies Court Team keeps families together by igniting collective action across states and local communities to meet the urgent needs of babies and toddlers.

Through an innovative, team-based approach, the Safe Babies Court Team applies the science of early childhood development to meet the urgent needs of babies and toddlers under court jurisdiction, ultimately transforming child welfare practice.
Through a local community coordinator, working in partnership with families, courts, child welfare agencies, and service providers, the program ignites collective action in local communities to strengthen families experiencing extreme hardships and meet the urgent needs of infants and toddlers who are under court jurisdiction and/or in foster care.

Five Areas of Focus

Enhanced Oversight and Collaborative Problem-Solving

Enhancing judicial oversight with more frequent court hearings and engaging families as partners guided by respect, kindness, and compassion.

Expedited, Appropriate, and Effective Services

Ensuring services for babies and their families are timely and comprehensive while respecting their lived experiences and the intergenerational effects of social, racial, and health inequities.

Trauma-Responsive Support

Responding to trauma with a healing approach while recognizing the resilience of parents and understanding the lifelong, systemic social and health inequities facing some families with young children.

Continuous Quality Improvement

Driving and sustaining best practices to foster reflection instead of reactivity, allowing the space for families and professionals to grow, adapt, and change based on effective data and evaluation.

Interdisciplinary, Collaborative, and Proactive Teamwork

Ensuring families’ individualized needs are addressed by promoting coordination across communities to find creative solutions and remove structural barriers that perpetuate discriminatory processes and inequities.

Our team is always looking for partners interested in learning more strategies to support infants, toddlers, and their caregivers who are involved in Child Welfare. For inquiries about bringing the Safe Baby Court Team to your area or for technical assistance on specific topics related to the program, email our program director, AnnaMarie Neal, at aneal@illuminatecolorado.org.

Best for Babies

Best for Babies is the prevention component of Illuminate Colorado’s Safe Babies program. The goal for the Best for Babies Navigator is to eliminate the need for Child Welfare by helping caregivers navigate available services.

Best for Babies is an innovative approach to preventing newborns from entering Child Welfare in partnership with TANF and local community providers using foundations of local Safe Babies Court Teams to inform and improve primary prevention efforts from the bottom up. A Community Navigator with lived experience engages pregnant and newly birthed mothers (at risk of child welfare entry) in case management activities through recovery coaching and contingency management to enhance the coordination of local supports and prevent Child Welfare entry whenever possible.

How It Works

  1. The Navigator, a lived-experience expert and recovery coach, assists women at risk of child welfare involvement in developing a plan to care for their child safely.

  2. The Navigator screens all women to help decide if they qualify for the full program, which includes monetary incentives for progress toward reducing the need (or potential need) for child welfare involvement.

  3. The Navigator then leverages community partnerships (regardless of program eligibility) to ensure every woman has the support they need – this means a referral to the Navigator ALWAYS means support, as long as the client participates in the planning process.

Who is Eligible for Best for Babies?

Anyone who is pregnant with no other children in their care OR parents with one child in their care under 6 months of age. This program is currently only available to residents of Pueblo County.

Learn more about Best for Babies and find support by contacting Sydney Salas at ssalas@illuminatecolorado.org.

Our team offers 15-20 minute presentations about Best for Babies for agencies upon request. For inquiries, email our program director, AnnaMarie Neal, at aneal@illuminatecolorado.org.

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