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Coming Together for Families Through the Safe Babies Court Team

By Caitlin Feasby, Statewide Coordinator, Ohio Infant-Toddler Court Team

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Representatives from Lucas and Cuyahoga counties, the ESCNEO, CDF-Ohio, and Groundwork Ohio

As the statewide coordinator of the Safe Babies Court Team (SBCT), I was invited to represent Groundwork Ohio at the 17th Annual Cross Sites conference hosted by ZERO TO THREE in National Harbor, MD. Joined by colleagues representing Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio) and Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio (ESCNEO), and along with community coordinators and court staff in Lucas, Scioto, and Cuyahoga Counties, Cross Sites offered an opportunity for us to join together as thought partners and strategic leaders to promote the SBCT approach statewide.

While in National Harbor, Cross Sites allowed the Ohio team to connect with one another while simultaneously building invaluable relationships with professionals engaging with this work from coast to coast. Each day was filled with information from visionary plenary speakers, structured breakout sessions, and ample networking opportunities all designed to support education and engagement.

ZERO TO THREE’s Safe Babies approach places families and local communities at the center of all efforts. This was reflected in the structure of Cross Sites with continuous representation of families who have interacted with and navigated the child welfare system, courageously sharing their lived experiences publicly. As attendees, it was impossible not to see the distinctive gaps in the structure of child welfare systems in the face of so many personal stories from parent leaders. As one parent leader shared, while navigating the system and witnessing its shortcomings first-hand, she never would have guessed there would be so many people gathered in one place united by a goal to change it.

Just as each of the three Safe Babies sites in Ohio are unique based on local community needs, challenges, strengths, and child welfare practices, each community across the country represented at Cross Sites is also unique in the same ways. This makes the work of building and expanding Safe Babies Court Teams dependent on buy-in and support at the local level, starting first with judicial leadership and local organizations.

In leaving Maryland, we brought enrichment and invigoration back to Ohio. SBCT is still young with plenty of room for growth in the coming years under the financial support of the federal HRSA grant.

While we expect to navigate future challenges in changing systems, Groundwork Ohio is confident in the resiliency and dedication of the Ohio team. The partnerships, professionals, and supportive leaders at local and statewide organizations are committed to expanding this work to enhance the child welfare experience for infants ages 0-3 and their families.

For more information about Safe Babies Court Teams, click here.


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