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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2Policy Recommendations for At-Risk Infants and Toddlers

The impact of child abuse and neglect is greatest among very young children, who are extremely vulnerable to the effects of maltreatment. If not properly addressed, the emotional, developmental, and physical health complications that result from abuse and neglect of infants and toddlers can have lifelong implications. This concern is compounded by the fact that infants are the fastest growing category of children entering foster care in the United States.

The Zero to Three Policy Center recently released a factsheet containing nine policy recommendations regarding infants and toddlers in the child welfare system. Each recommendation discusses the relevant current research and offers a promising strategy to address the issue. The policy recommendations for infants and toddlers in foster care are:

  1. Prevent multiple placements.
  2. Ensure developmentally appropriate visitation practices.
  3. Use evidence-based models to prevent child abuse and neglect.
  4. Ensure comprehensive, developmentally appropriate health care.
  5. Ensure access to Part C of the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  6. Ensure early childhood mental health assessment and treatment services, including consultation to child welfare agencies.
  7. Ensure access to quality early care and learning experiences.
  8. Ensure ongoing postpermanency services and supports for adoptive families and families seeking reunification.
  9. Use oversight of the courts to ensure safety and permanency.

The factsheet notes that the early years present an excellent opportunity to effectively intervene with at-risk children. These early intervention strategies can lead to significant cost savings over time through reductions in child abuse and neglect, welfare dependence, and substance abuse.