• February 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 2

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The Unique Needs of Infants and Toddlers

Almost 200,000 children under the age of 3 come into contact with the child welfare system every year. Although young children are extremely vulnerable, the first years of life are a time when interventions can prevent and/or mitigate the negative effects of child maltreatment. A recent report from Child Trends and ZERO TO THREE suggests that high-quality, timely interventions focused on the unique needs of young children can significantly reduce the developmental damage to infants and toddlers who have been maltreated.

The report details findings from a survey of 46 State child welfare agency representatives. The goal was to identify innovative policies and practices, as well as key challenges, gaps, and barriers that agencies face in meeting the needs of infants and toddlers who experience maltreatment. Results indicate that most States have policies and practices to promote the health and well-being of all children who have been maltreated; however, there is often no distinction for the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers. In addition, results show that States are not fully addressing the needs of birth parents.

The report indicates that States need, and some already have, policies that include more frequent visitation with birth parents; rapid screenings and services for health and developmental concerns; involvement of birth parents in services for their young children; services for birth parents; more frequent case reviews, court hearings, and caseworker visits; and specific training for child welfare staff on developmentally appropriate practices for infants and toddlers. The report includes several links to resources that may assist States.

Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers: A Survey of State Child Welfare Policies and Initiatives is available on the Child Trend website:

http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/changing-the-course-for-infants-and-toddlers-FINAL.pdf (5 MB)

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