Pictured from L to R: Jackie Stubbers, Judy Norris, Patricia Rogness, Gwen Babberl, Nicole Button, Andrea Vitzthum, Penny Reimer, Judge Joseph Seidlin, Catherine Crew, Judge Constance Cohen, Jami Hagemeier
Photo credit: Frank Brown


Polk County Safe Babies Court Team, Des Moines, Iowa

Geographic/Demographic Reach: Polk County

Court Team Members: 

  • Attorneys – Private, court appointed, child and parent, county
  • Early Intervention Part C Providers –  direct care and administrative
  • Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) – Supervisors, Coordinators, Leads, and Volunteers
  • Children and Families of Iowa (CFI) – Host Agency for the Local Court Team
  • CFI – Direct Care, Domestic Violence Advocates, Supervisors, Administrators, Substance Abuse Treatment, Clinical Providers
  • Child/Family Clinicians – CFI, Child Guidance Center Mid-Iowa Family Therapy (MIFTC), Private Practice
  • Children’s Justice Initiative – Court Improvement Program
  • Community Advocates – Private Business, Nonprofit Service Agencies
  • Judges – Juvenile and Court of Appeals
  • County Attorney’s Office – Case Coordinators
  • Court Administration – Juvenile Case Coordinator
  • Colleges and Universities – Iowa State, University of Iowa, Drake, Simpson, Grandview, University of Northern Iowa
  • Department of Human Services (DHS) – Administration, Service Area Managers and Supervisors, Assessment workers, and ongoing caseworkers
  • Des Moines Public Schools SUCCESS and Social Workers
  • DHS/Part C Liaison
  • Drake Early Head Start and Head Start – Administration and direct care teacher
  • Law Clinic – Drake Middleton Center for Children’s Rights
  • Substance Abuse Assment Agency
  • Family Violence Center and Polk County Crisis and Advocacy
  • Fatherhood Initiative 
  • First Resources
  • Iowa Coalition against Domestic Violence 
  • Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parent Association 
  • Kids Net
  • Adult treatment services
  • Mentor Iowa
  • Kinship Connections – Mid-Iowa Family Therapy Clinic
  • Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency workers – CFI and MIFTC
  • Mosaic and A Home Within
  • Girls and Boys Day Treatment – Orchard Place PACE
  • Parent Partners
  • Part C Heartland AEA 
  • Polk County Attorney’s Office
  • Polk County Court Administration
  • Polk County Women Attorneys Association
  • Polk County DECAT
  • Polk County Health
  • Project Launch 
  • Polk County Model Court
  • Regional Child Protection Center (RCPC)
  • Senator Grassley’s Office
  • State of Iowa Early Childhood Education
  • Developmental, therapeutic day care
  • Visiting Nurse Services
  • Youth Emergency Shelter Services – PRC Nurse, Emergency Nursery, Shelter, Multi-Services
  • Young Women’s Resource Center 

Key Barriers to Address: Lack of reliable transportation; confidentiality issues in cases; recent increase in multiple placements; staff turnover/stakeholder turnover; and high caseloads. There is a need for: substantial fatherhood programming for fathers; attorneys trained in the SBCT approach; effective and collaborative substance abuse treatment, post-case supports; timely adult mental health services; and foster care training on trauma and infant-toddler well-being. 

Resources Available for Parents: Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, Early Head Start, child and family-focused agencies, domestic violence services, Parent Partners, pre and post removal conferences, Family Safety, Risk, and Permanency Services (FSRP), CASA, volunteer attorneys association, child development center, and state victims assistance funds.

Resources Available for Children: Children’s specialty clinics (RCPC), Early Intervention Part C, CPP, child and family-focused services, CASA, FSRP, Child Development Center, victim assistance funds, zero to three nursery supplies, and behavioral health services.

Promising Practices: 

  • Utilizing parent mentors
  • Early engagement through pre-removal conferences
  • Solid service intervention teams
  • Local agency ownership of the court team
  • Statewide leadership team encouraging practice expansion
  • Baby CASAs
  • Trauma-focused community
  • Timely response team for child focused services
  • Many cross-disciplinary training opportunities

Desired Practice Change: 

  • Rebuilding a strong network of invested stakeholders
  • Decrease in placements
  • State implementation of effective court team practices
  • Collaborative efforts to improve current and new partnerships, especially with drug treatment programs
  • Increased child trauma and mental health training for foster parents and relative caretakers
  • Ongoing resources as needs arise for system families

Public Events: July 29, 2015: Iowa QIC-CT kick-off meeting; June 2015: Training and consultation on historical trauma.