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February 2009Vol. 10, No. 1Improving Mental Health Outcomes for Abused and Neglected Infants

Child welfare specialists recognize that infants and toddlers placed in out-of-home care often have special mental health needs resulting from the trauma of abuse and neglect. A new publication provides guidance for collaboration among the professionals—judges, court personnel, child welfare professionals, and infant mental health specialists—who have responsibility for ensuring the well-being of maltreated children under age 3 and their families.

In the publication Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers, authors Betty Tableman and Nichole Paradis draw upon models of court-community partnerships developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, and ZERO TO THREE to provide guidelines for how judges working with child welfare, community mental health, and other community partners can put in place a "Maltreated Infants Court" to take into account the social and emotional needs of the infant/toddler within the judicial process.

The model provides particular focus on the specialized role of the infant mental health specialist who has responsibility for assessing the parent and infant/toddler and their interactions. In concert with other involved professionals, the infant mental health specialist makes recommendations to provide a comprehensive intervention (including parenting education) with the infant/toddler and the parent together, where appropriate.

The publication includes a sample court report, a list of resources, and recommendations for training and supervision for mental health specialists taking on this specialized role.

Courts, Child Welfare and Infant Mental Health: Improving Outcomes for Abused/Neglected Infants and Toddlers was published by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health. Ordering information is available on the association's website: