New program aims to support child welfare

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn —  The West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation introduced a first of its kind program, designed for child welfare agencies to assist young children and their families.

Thanks to an almost half million dollar contract with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Madison County welcomed ‘Safe Baby Court’.

It is a free program helping speed up the process of a child being in the foster care system, by providing families with services they need to promote healthy child development. Health care leaders are using the program to strengthen the lives of families.

“It’s going to be housed through west Tennessee healthcare foundation, but it is through Department of Children Services and through the state,” Community Coordinator of Safe Baby Court, Marley Coburn said.

The program will serve children zero to 3-year-olds.

“That’s just the biggest developmental stage in our lives and that’s focusing from physical to emotional to cognitive development,” Coburn said.

Families who have open cases with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will go before a judge, who will determine if the program is fitting for a family. Coburn said the program is all about investing time and effort in the children.

“Link the family with resources and that’s down from the parent and siblings and down to the 0-3 year old that we’re targeting for our program.”

Coburn said juvenile court judges have seen generations of families come through the system. “Their seeing mothers, and their seeing those children as mothers so their seeing children’s children and children’s children,” Coburn explained. “And the process just keeps coming right along and so we’re just trying to break that cycle.”

The ultimate goal is to transform the welfare system by providing resources like parenting classes, mental health and substance abuse services, and frequent team meetings to help kids and their families exit the system.

“It’s really kind of walking along side them checking up on them everyday if that’s what they need,” Coburn said.

There is only a handful of other programs like safe baby court in counties across the state, but this is the only one in west Tennessee.

State officials said they will have their first safe baby court docket within the next few weeks.

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