Florida: The Early Childhood Court - "Baby Courts"

The Early Childhood Court (ECC) initiative is an innovative approach to addressing the root causes of intergenerational child abuse and justice system involvement in Florida. Fondly referred to as “Baby Courts,” these courts bring together the science of early childhood development and proven, evidence-based treatments to ensure stable, permanent families for young children under age three. The ECC approach seeks to address key developmental challenges as a result of childhood trauma and challenges by providing evidence-based treatments grounded in early childhood development knowledge. Trauma-informed judges work with specialized dockets to identify key causes for child victims and their families. Families are then paired with a community coordinator and an integrated multidisciplinary team to facilitate child-parent therapy, monthly parent meetings, and to fast-track other support services in the community. Based on early findings, children who go through ECC reached overall permanency with a stable family (on average 143 days (4.75 months) sooner than children who go through traditional dependency court.  The analysis also finds ECC children face lower chances of re-abuse.