HEALING IN FAMILY COURT:
PROMOTING HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT FOR MALTREATED INFANTS
On any given day, nearly 1,000 children in Delaware are living in foster care – a third of them are younger than 5 years of age. Infants and young children in foster care have suffered abuse and/or neglect, and the removal from their families further traumatizes them, leaving them vulnerable to health, behavioral and emotional challenges for the rest of their lives. A conference sponsored by the Family Court of Delaware on June 13, 2008 at the Dover Sheraton gave more than 200 judges, lawyers, therapists and social workers the opportunity to learn from national and local experts about ways to address those challenges when children are young.
“During the first five years of life, children develop the foundation and capabilities on which all subsequent development builds. These abilities include both remarkable linguistic and cognitive gains and progress in their emotional, social, regulatory, and moral capacities. Virtually every aspect of human development, from the brain’s evolving circuitry to the child’s capacity for empathy, is affected by the environments and experiences that are encountered in a cumulative fashion during the early childhood years,” according to Judge Cindy S. Lederman and Joy D. Osofsky, PhD.
Judge Lederman and Dr. Osofsky have advanced three initiatives in Miami-Dade County Juvenile Court to assess the needs of young children in dependency cases, help caregivers recognize and support their children’s needs for healthy development, and provide intervention services to young children exposed to violence in their homes or communities.
Mary Dozier, PhD. provided an overview of the progress made locally through the Infant Caregivers Program at the University of Delaware. The program works with infants in dependency cases and their caregivers, and helps shape the training program for foster parents and others who will care for these young victims of dependency, neglect and sometimes violence.