The Infant-Parent Court Project is a program of the Early Childhood Center and works in conjunction with the Bronx Family Court. The Project provides an evidence-based mental health intervention — Child-Parent Psychotherapy — for parents and their infants and toddlers under age 3 who were removed from their care due to allegations of maltreatment. The intervention addresses the issues of trauma and attachment that are vital to improving parenting, securing permanency, preventing recurrence of maltreatment and ending the intergenerational cycle of foster care, court involvement and child abuse. The overarching goal of the Infant-Parent Court Project is to establish children’s secure attachment to a primary caregiver, preferably the biological parent, as a critical foundation for family reunification and the child’s subsequent developmental competencies. The intervention seeks to target the specific parent behaviors that have generated concern and to improve and promote positive parenting interactions for parents of young children who have been removed, or are at risk for removal, from their parents. Project staff works closely with judges and other family court personnel, foster care and child welfare staff, and attorneys to provide clinical information to inform decisions on permanency. Project clinicians also connect parents and children with the necessary services to address the child’s developmental needs and help parents access the services and supports they need to strengthen their ability to care for their child.
How the Infant-Parent Court Project Works
The Project takes referrals from Bronx Family Court judges, attorneys and child welfare caseworkers of infants and toddlers who have been placed in foster care or who are at risk of removal from their parents. The Project seeks to receive referrals as early in the case as possible, so that the attachment between child and parent can be facilitated.
Referral criteria include;
- Active Bronx Family Court case where the referred parent is a respondent
- Child under 3 years old at the time of referral
- The goal of the case is reunification with the parent
All families are seen for an initial assessment as a first step for program participation. Parents and their babies are then seen weekly (when possible) for 26 sessions. Project clinicians also appear regularly at family court proceedings and participate in foster care agency family team conferences as well as advocate for developmental services.
Project Accomplishments and Evaluation Results
The program has a strong evaluation component, which has demonstrated the following:
- Statistically significant improvement in parenting competencies as measured by the Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale (KIPS) for parents who complete the intervention.
- Decrease in parents’ reports of depressive symptoms as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)
- Increased contact as well as less supervised contact, between parents and children via court-sanctioned visits for the majority of parents involved in the Project.
- High rates of reunification of infants and toddlers with their parents relative to City norm.
- Improvement in parent empathy for child as measured by the Adult Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI), a measure of parenting and child rearing attitudes. Improvement in empathy is meaningful as low parent empathy for child is highly correlated with risk for maltreatment. Through the intervention project clinicians help parents look for cues and understand their infants’ needs and actions.
Training and Information for Child Welfare Workers
In addition to dyadic work with parents and infants, project staff provides training to the child welfare community on infant brain development, attachment, trauma, and infant-parent relational intervention. Staff also works with the child welfare community on best practices for and policy issues related to young children in the child welfare system.
Mobility Mentoring Project
Parents who are engaged in services with the Early Childhood Center or the Infant Parent Court Project and are motivated to take steps and build skills to achieve economic and family stability may be referred by their ECC or Infant Parent Project clinician to the Mobility Mentoring Project. ECC’s Mobility Mentoring project provides a trained professional to guide parents through self-assessment and goal setting, coach them to build the skills and capacities needed to improve their economic and family stability. This service is modeled on a program operated by Crittenden Women’s Union in Boston, MA that is moving homeless mothers out of poverty. Mobility Mentoring is a long term intervention that focuses on improving “executive functioning” -- the critical thinking and self-regulation skills that are required to solve problems, set and attain goals, prioritize, delay gratification and problem solve --all of the skills needed for adults to work their way out of poverty and provide stability and guidance for their children. See the Mobility Mentoring Project Description for more information.