Sarasota’s Early Childhood Court named Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Award Finalist
The Early Childhood Court program of The Florida Center for Early Childhood in Sarasota changed its approach to handling cases of young children in foster care from one of simple management to one that seeks to heal the underlying source of maltreatment. For this effective approach that has improved the lives of children, the ECC has been named a finalist for the Florida Blue Foundation’s prestigious Sapphire Awards. The awards are part of the Foundation’s annual Community Health Symposium, taking place in Orlando May 9-10, that brings together health advocates from across the country to discuss major health issues. Pat Geraghty, president and CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue, will announce the Sapphire Award winners at a dinner on May 9.
As a result of increasing “toxic stress” in the home, a rise in foster care and issues related to the opioid epidemic, more children are requiring therapy and specialized case management. Early Childhood Court began in Sarasota County in 2014 to address the special needs of infants and toddlers entering the foster care system as a result of their parents’ substance abuse. Working in partnership with the Sarasota YMCA Safe Children Coalition in Judicial Circuit 12 (Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto counties), it is a specialized court model specifically targeted for infants and children age 0-5 who have been removed from their homes and placed into foster care.
The ECC’s primary goals are to reduce the time it takes to place a child in a permanent living situation (reunification with family, permanent guardianship or adoption), reduce the number of children who return to foster care and improve child well-being. ECC uses an enhanced system of care that includes infant mental health therapy, judicial leadership, monthly court hearings vs bi-annual, frequent visitation (2-4 times per week) and linking to local community providers and support. This comprehensive approach showed 2016 results of 112 days shorter time to permanency, two children returning to care versus 140 children who were not in the ECC program and improvements in health and developmental areas.
About Florida Blue Foundation
Florida Blue Foundation enables healthy communities by making grants, building coalitions and rewarding best practices. More than three million people in Florida have received direct health services as a result of grants made to nonprofit organizations since our founding in 2001. Florida Blue Foundation is a trade name of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation, Inc., an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.
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Toni Woods is a Senior Media Relations Consultant for Florida Blue. She has worked in communications for more than 20 years in the health care, energy and sports industries, working with media around the world. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.