who we serve

Ultimately, the Safe Baby Court team serves each family in unique and personal ways but one constant is keeping the baby at the center of all decision-making.

All families enrolled in Knox County Safe Baby Court have at least one child in the family unit from birth to age 3. All children are placed away from their biological parents at the onset of the case for various reason. A majority of our cases are related to parental substance use but we have also addressed basic need issues and parents with significant mental health needs. Children are often placed in foster care or with family supports at the beginning of the Safe Baby Court case. If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, please visit the site below.

the first goal of Safe Baby Court

The first goal of Safe Baby Court is always reunification with birth parents. That being said, much of the work of Safe Baby Court staff is to respond to the needs of the birth parents in every regard. Throughout the case, the needs of the parents are assessed and reassessed to ensure there are not gaps that could impact placement stability in the future. Safe Baby Court initiatives are trauma informed and should promote a positive impact on protective factors in families to increase long term success and stability apart from the child welfare system. Parents are offered a plethora of support and services with a focus on authentic and honest relationships between parents and team members. This aims to promote a safe place to share struggles so the team can appropriately respond and support parents in achieving long term recovery

Foster parents and relative caregivers also play a pivotal role in determining how young children in the child welfare system feel safe and nurtured. Their role is invaluable to the children in our program as they provide care and advocacy for children placed in their home. Foster parents and caregivers in Safe Baby Court should be offered support to help maintain placements and to help children in their homes flourish and thrive mentally, emotionally and developmentally. Further, Safe Baby Court strives to help foster parents and caregivers nurture healthy relationships among children placed in their home and their biological parents, siblings and extended family. Safe Baby Court seeks foster parents and caregivers who are committed to reunification where it is in the best interest of the child and we hope to support ongoing relationships between biological parents and foster parents post-reunification where possible. Both foster parents and biological parents play valuable, albeit different, roles in each child’s life and that value should be emphasized and promoted by the Safe Baby Court Team.

“We began fostering as a way to give back to our community… a way to put our arms around families in need. All children deserve love and want to feel safe, so we know we are making an impact, even if just a small one. But, we also believe their parents deserve a second chance. A chance to ask for help. A chance to heal. We think the goals of Safe Baby Court align perfectly with our goals as a foster family. While every case is different, we know we’re part of a team that is doing incredibly things for families in Knoxville.”
Tori R., Safe Baby Court Foster Parent

“Our experience with the Safe Baby Court program was by far one of the most special and unique in our 6yrs as foster parents. The increased visits, meetings and court dates that come with SBC held everyone to a higher degree of accountability, provided multiple levels of support to the whole family and enabled them to move towards reunification quickly & safely. It also allowed us to build a stronger relationship with the parents that continues to this day; a relationship that was easily built because we were surrounded by a community of people that valued us individually & understood that the more hands working together, the better for everyone.”

Nicole M., Safe Baby Court Foster Parent

“I’m a mom, and my baby is in foster care. The Safe Babies Court program has been really supportive of me. They’re resourceful, and they help me with housing and food and with whatever I need. They do everything they can to see my child come home to me. The judge awesome, fair, and he listens. He wants what’s best for my baby and my family.”

Anonymous , Safe Baby Court Participant

“Helen Ross McNabb Center is honored to be a part of the Safe Babies Court Team. We understand that babies experience healthy lives when they live in strong families. We are privileged to provide family-centered infant mental health care to vulnerable babies and toddlers living in Knox County and to support children’s parents and caregivers. We know that working closely alongside Knox County Juvenile Court and Knox County Department of Children’s Services is critical in keeping babies safe and helping them to have healthy lives. The Safe Babies Court approach has allowed Helen Ross McNabb Center to work in a team of professionals and families to ensure babies have the healthiest start in life and can overcome trauma.”

Helen Ross McNabb Agency, SBC Partner

“Just about everybody knows government ‘red tape’ and bureaucracy is a problem. One important concept of the Safe Baby Court is to streamline the processes so that everybody who is supposed to have the best interests of the child is on the same page and working seamlessly together. Foster care is not the desired outcome of most cases involving children. The Safe Baby Court is a pilot program that I hope will work and keep families together and make them stronger and free from addiction,”

Knox County Juvenile Court Judge, SBC Partner

“Knox County Safe Baby Court has seen a lot of growth and success in the past year due to the large and diverse partnerships that we have developed. We are affiliated with a significant number of substance abuse and mental health providers. Also, our local housing authority and various property owners have assisted us in expediting vouchers and securing appropriate housing. An unexpected success has been with our resources in the medical, vision and dental care areas that have addressed personal care issues that have not been a priority for our clients. All of the community contacts that have been identified and cultivated in past year have had a positive impact on our families and dramatically increased our rates of permanency and reunification.”

Magistrate Michael W. Fortune, Knox County Safe Baby Court Magistrate

check the data

of babies have access to Child Parent Psychotherapy, the recommended infant mental health therapy for babies and toddlers who have experienced trauma and are part of the Safe Babies Court program

outcome data

  • Since beginning to take cases in April 2018 – 55 families have been served by SBC with almost 90 children
    • Nearly 60% SBC children involved in SBC reunified with their parents
    • Other outcomes included custody being placed with relatives, adoptions or families opting out of the SBC process
  • 85% of birth parents show an improvement in trauma symptoms through access to trauma-informed services, captured on the Trauma Symptoms Checklist
  • 91% of parents found or maintained employment during the program
  • 100% of parents who regained custody of their children eliminated substance use
  • 85% of birth parents reported their families were more resilient, captured on the Protective Factors Inventory
  • 85% of birth parents reported less parenting stress, captured on the Parenting Stress Index