Safe Baby Courts
In recent years, Tennessee has undergone a transformation in recognizing the long-lasting impact traumatic events can have on young children. Every 10 seconds, there is a report of child abuse. Every six minutes, an infant or toddler is removed from his/her home because of abuse or neglect. These children will then have repeated interactions with the judicial system. Safe baby courts are the key to ensuring those interactions are compassionate, collaborative, and, above all, put the long-term needs of the child first.
In Tennessee, there are currently 12 safe baby courts that focus on children ages birth to four.
These courts have their roots in the Tennessee Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative that began in 2010 and continued for several years. The state’s first infant court began as a pilot project in Davidson County in 2015. Baby courts expanded to Grundy and Coffee counties before legislation passed in 2017 created the additional five baby courts. Additional courts were added in 2019 and 2020.
Much of the necessary legislation and funding was championed by Tennessee State Senator Ferrell Haile.
Safe baby courts are dedicated to providing substance misuse treatment and other therapies to new parents in an effort to keep families together.