Healthy Infant Court Provides Positive Results for Parents and Children
Milwaukee County’s Healthy Infant Court launched in July of 2016. It was the first of its kind in Wisconsin, and to date, remains one of two problem-solving courts in the state, the only other being in Lacrosse.
The goal of the Healthy Infant Court is for children to reach lasting permanency quicker, through reunification with a parent or parents, adoption or placement with a legal guardian.
“The difference is night and day,” says Brian Myers, Infant Mental Health Specialist at Wellpoint Care Network. “When you are a part of Child Protective Services through the regular courts, you have a hearing once every three or six months. And, then you have all that time basically on your own to figure out how to get things accomplished. But, when you enter into a problem-solving court like Healthy Infant Court, you have this entire team that meets every month. You feel like you’re moving a lot faster.”
The program focuses on children from newborn to three-years-old who work directly with an Infant Mental Health Specialist like Myers to navigate the special challenges and opportunities of parenting during the early years.
“It’s kind of like a trauma-informed court system, and it’s really nice,” added Myers. “I look forward to attending and seeing families be reunited when they’ve been torn apart. And, being able to do that at the earliest intervention that we possibly can is the only way that we’re going to break the intergenerational cycle of child welfare involvement and the trauma associated with that. If we can get in there at the earliest possible moment and try to help, I feel like we’re doing a good service for Milwaukee.”
Myers received a capstone certificate in Infant Mental Health from UW-Madison in 2015. He joined Wellpoint Care as an Infant Mental Health specialist in 2018. He says working with Healthy Infant Court for the last five years has been a rewarding experience.
“It’s very fulfilling to work for an organization that is very proactive and progressive and cutting edge,” he says. “The goal is to give a voice to the most vulnerable in our communities. Not to take them away, but to help them thrive and flourish in their families.”
Myers would like to see the program expand in the future.
“If I had a magic wand, every single child under five whose family wants to enter into Healthy Infant Court should be allowed to do it. We all want the same thing. We all want healthy children and healthy families. So, to me, it’s a win-win.”