Washington, D.C. — The “one-size-fits-all” child welfare approach adopted by most states does not work in meeting the unique developmental needs of many of the 200,000 infants and toddlers who come under their care annually, according to a new report by ZERO TO THREE and Child Trends. The first three years are a time when a child’s brain is developing at life-altering rates and when early intervention can significantly reduce developmental damage.
The report, Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers: A Survey of State Child Welfare Policies and Initiatives, is based on a 2013 survey of 46 state child welfare agencies. States were asked to respond to questions regarding the policies and practices that guide their work in addressing the needs of infants and toddlers who have been maltreated.
The key findings underscore the need for action especially in light of a major study recently released by the National Academy of Sciences indicating that “adverse outcomes for victims of child abuse and neglect can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, poor physical health, and attention difficulties and delinquency.”
Key findings from Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers include:
“This report is an important call to action for state child welfare agencies to establish stronger policies and practices that specifically address the needs of our most vulnerable children in foster care,” said Matthew Melmed, executive director of ZERO TO THREE. “When young children are removed from their home and placed in foster homes—often multiple foster homes—it can exacerbate the effects of the maltreatment they already experienced. The consequences can be profound.”
“Children under three represent nearly a third of all child maltreatment victims,” said Carol Emig, president of Child Trends. “These young children are completely dependent on others for their care. At this stage of rapid development, they need healthy, consistent relationships with adults. Child welfare policies for infants and toddlers should be different than those for older children, because their needs and developmental timelines are different.”
The good news, according to the report, is that we know what works. It highlights a number of ways states can strengthen support for infants and toddlers who have been maltreated, including those in the foster care system:
“We simply can’t miss this opportunity because the cost to children, and to society, will only increase over time,” said Melmed.
To access the report, visit http://www.childtrends.org/changing-the-course-for-infants-and-toddlers/.
ZERO TO THREE is a national, nonprofit organization that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development. The ZERO TO THREE Policy Center is a nonpartisan, research-based resource for federal and state policymakers and advocates on the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers. zerotothree.org
Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that provides valuable information and insights on the well‐being of children and youth. For more than 30 years, policymakers, funders, educators and service providers in the U.S. and around the world have relied on our data and analyses to improve policies and programs serving children and youth. Our work is supported by foundations; federal, state and local government agencies; and by nonprofit organizations. childtrends.org