Early Childhood Court

Early Childhood Court

Early Childhood Court (ECC) is a problem-solving court serving infants and toddlers (ages 0-5) who are involved in the dependency court system and placed in out-of-home care, striving for improved family outcomes using a national approach, with best practices. ECC recognizes the unique needs of both the parent and child with the goal always focused on the best interest of the child.
The goal is to improve child safety and well-being, heal trauma, repair the parent/child relationship, promote timely permanency, prevent recurrence of maltreatment and stop the intergenerational cycle of maltreatment including abuse, neglect, and violence.
ECC is a trauma-responsive court. In order for the child to reach timely permanency and prevent re-abuse, our program offers a: specialized docket, multidisciplinary team, non-adversarial approach, evidence-based treatment, judicial supervision, accountability, individualized interventions, concurrent planning and access to additional resources in the community.
This is a voluntary program that includes monthly family team meetings and court appearances before the judge.  Parents with open dependency case are required to follow and complete a case plan, Circle of Security (COSP- Parenting Education Classes) and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP).  Case plan services may include some or all of the following: 


  • Outpatient Treatment, Intensive Outpatient, Residential Treatment
  • Random Drug Testing
  • Family Counseling/Therapy In-Home Parenting Education Program
  • Stable Employment Stable Housing
  • Self-Help Groups (AA/NA/MARA)
  • Medication Management
  • Schedule all appropriate dental and health-related appointments for your children, and comply with treatment and medication as prescribed
  • Call or visit your case manager at least every 14 calendar days
  • Mental Health Services

ECC provides parents and children access to resources that are often unavailable to them. 


Eligible Criteria

1.Cases with the following criteria shall be identified as potential participation for ECC:

  • Families where children have been sheltered as a result of an allegation of abuse, abandonment, neglect, violence or substance abuse.
  • The case involves a family with a child or children ages 0-5 years who are adjudicated dependent with the primary goal of reunification and placed in out-of-home care. This population was chosen because of the profound and lifelong impact of adverse childhood experiences, including child abuse and neglect, during the time of increased brain development.
  • The parent(s) consent to the petition for adjudication of dependency and agree to participate in ECC.
  • The parent(s) have the capacity and liberty to participate in the intensive interventions, which include monthly hearings, frequent visitation, and weekly treatment.  

2. Families may be excluded from participation in ECC for reasons including, but not limited to:

  • The parent has severe uncontrolled mental illness or a severe intellectual disability that would prevent him or her from participating in therapy.
  • Cases with egregious maltreatment where the perpetrator is unknown or current/ potential criminal charges related to the case may also be excluded.
  • The parent is incarcerated for an extended period of time.
  • The parent is otherwise unable to commit to intensive intervention.
  • It is ultimately the decision of the court which cases will be accepted for ECC services.

Referral Process

Cases are identified in several ways including, but not limited to, review of Shelter and Dependency Petitions by the Program Coordinator and referrals from Judges, attorneys, Department of Children and Families staff, case management, and Guardians ad Litem. It is preferable that cases be identified at the Shelter or Arraignment Hearing, and no later than the Disposition. Upon identifying an eligible case, a referral form must be completed and submitted to the Early Childhood Court Program Coordinator.  The parent(s) must schedule and complete an orientation with the Program Coordinator who will explain the program and determine if the parent(s) are interested in voluntarily participating in ECC.

If you are interested in Early Childhood Court and believe you or someone you know may be eligible to participate in the program, please e-mail the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Problem-Solving Court programs at problemsolvingcourts@circuit19.org or contact Yleana Ramirez at (772) 807-4388.