Survey Finds Little Differentiation Is Mandated for Infants in Child Welfare

Years after federal legislation aimed at prompting new ways to work with the oldest youths in the child welfare system, a survey by Zero to Three and Child Trends suggests that specialized services for maltreated infants has stagnated.

Few states mandate any special services for the nearly 200,000 children under three who come into contact with child protective services each year, according to Changing the Course for Infants and Toddlers, which collected surveys from 46 states. Additionally, few states are employing what the two authoring organizations point to as effective.

Among the findings:

  • 31 states do not routinely hold case reviews, permanency hearings, other court hearings, or family group decision-making meetings on a more frequent or expedited basis for infants and toddlers in foster care, as compared to other age groups
  • Just nine states require more frequent visitation for young children than for other youth
  • 26 out of 46 states set a timeline for services referrals for health and developmental concerns, and those timelines ranged from two to 60 days
  • Only three states (Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota) require training on developmentally appropriate technique for working on cases with young children.
“Infusing research into practice is complex and can take time, but the evidence is clear about the resulting harm when the development of infants and toddlers who have experienced maltreatment is not supported,” said the report.
In 2008, President George W. Bush signed into the law the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, a law that required states to better coordinate the health and educational services for foster youth while also offering extended foster care and guardianship for older teens and young adults.
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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at