SCIOTO — Judge Alan Lemons is a strong advocate for children of all ages and he has been running the drug court program for years and in the past year and a half, he has worked with Groundwork Ohio and the Children’s Defense Fund- Ohio to expand the Safe Babies Court Team (SBCT) approach in Ohio through standing up infant-toddler court teams in Cuyahoga, Montgomery and Scioto Counties under the leadership of Judge Kristin Sweeney, Judge Helen Wallace and himself.
The Ohio Infant-Toddler Court Team Expansion Project intends to transform the experience of infants and toddlers and their families involved in the court system so that they can be safe, loved and thrive, and to enable communities to be non-adversarial, racially, and culturally equitable, and collaborative as they address the problems that interfere with the health and well-being of children and families. We will create a future where all families have the capacities, resources, and supports to care for and nurture their children.
The work is funded by a State Expansion Grant from ZERO TO THREE, a national leader whose mission is to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. (groundworkohio.org) ZERO TO THREE works to ensure all babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. zerotothree.org
Locally through Judge Lemons’ Court system, Jordan Davis SBCT Community Coordinator, Scioto County Juvenile Court has the Safe Babies Court up and running in Scioto County. In a release on portsmouthoh.org Davis has stated about the program and need in this area. “It is no secret that Scioto County has been dealing with a drug epidemic for some time now. Not only is it affecting the adults using the substances, but it is affecting their children. The children who are most vulnerable. The Program Zero to Three aims to help the children ages 0-3 because 85% of the brain growth happens in a child’s first three years of life. During this time, the child needs someone they can bond with physically and emotionally. This program prioritizes services and assessments that support healthy development during this time of their lives.”
Davis talked about this program with Portsmouth Daily Times during last week’s Community Engagement day last week she said, “This program is for kids from 0-3 years old who have been removed from the custody of their parents into Children’s Service custody. It’s a different way of going about a different way to work a case plan. We meet twice a month, once the Judge comes and family and anyone providing a service to the child attend. I facilitate a family team without the Judge for the other meeting. This is where we really sit down look at their case plan with the caseworker from Children’s Services.”
Davis said that they try to break the plan down with the parents about what they are required to do, if they want to get their children back again. She said that it’s things like completing drug treatment, getting a place to live, do parenting classes and the other things they are required to do and then they break it down to not make it seem so overwhelming to the parent to reach their goal. She said that some of the parents have never even had to make an appointment or things of that nature and they are there to help them learn to do what it takes to do these things.
Davis continued, “I am the community coordinator, I am a neutral party, I’m always for the child, I’m not on the parent’s side, I’m not on Children’s Service’s side, I’m not on treatment’s side, I get everyone that needs to be there, there. It’s been going really well so far. We have a couple of families right now and a couple of pending families.”
Davis spoke on how they got started, “September of 2020 is when we were introduced to the program and I went through a lot of training. Safe Babies is different than Drug Court because where they focus on the parent, our focus is on the babies. We want to plan from the very beginning. Our target population is children 0-3 that are substance exposed. We have an active community team, it’s anyone that would want to be a part of it, pediatricians, early interventions, teachers, volunteers and others, we meet once a month and talk about updated cases, maybe barriers the parents or we are seeing and we talk about that.” She talked about how they can figure out what they can provide and that the whole point of that team is to find the answers they need and multiple people can point her in the right direction, have questions or they need a resource, that they can go to that team and that is why they want people from different entities as part of it.
Davis added that if the parent is unable to complete the voluntary program, Safe Babies Court, follows the child regardless, they work for the permanency for that child. One thing asked of Davis was if she liked being part of this new program and not only could you tell by speaking with her, but she immediately said, “I love it!”
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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