Families with Infants and Toddlers Court - Palmer
Mission of the Court
The mission of the Palmer Families with Infants & Toddlers (FIT) Court is to recognize the unique developmental needs of young children. The primary goals are to achieve permanency within twelve months and to reunify young children with their families of origin. Whenever possible, the FIT Court seeks to reduce repeat maltreatment by building strong supports around the family. Involvement in the therapeutic court promotes child safety by encouraging wrap-around recovery services for parents and custodians.
How Cases are referred?
At the initiation of a CINA case, the Project Coordinator will evaluate cases for qualifying criteria and provide families meeting those criteria with information on the Court’s purpose and procedures. Cases involving allegations of sex abuse, and certain cases involving criminal conduct or investigations, will not be considered. The Court Team gathers information about the case and makes a final eligibility decision. Prospective participants should consult with counsel regarding eligibility and opt-in.
Eligible participants must:
- Have had a child removed from the home as part of a CINA case;
- At least one child in the family is aged thirty-six months or younger;
- The court has entered an order for temporary custody;
- Be able and willing to attend court in person;
- Be willing to actively engage in the Court and follow an individualized case plan and all Court requirements; and,
- The child(ren) are placed within the Mat-Su Borough.
The Palmer Families with Infants and Toddlers (FIT) Court is a therapeutic court for families with children, ages zero to 36 months, who have an open child welfare case before the court. The FIT Court is a collaborative effort designed to provide participants intensive services and support. The FIT Court Team will work cooperatively to achieve consensus on the key elements of the court. The FIT Court has identified, and will operate in accordance with, the following core components:
- Judicial Leadership: The FIT Court requires the leadership of a local judge who, because of their unique position of authority in the processing of child welfare cases, is a catalyst for change.
- Project Coordinator: The FIT Court requires a Project Coordinator who acts as a liaison by providing overall guidance to the judge and court team.
- Active Court Team Focused on the Big Picture: The FIT Court recognizes the Mat-Su Valley has community stakeholders interested in how the community responds to the needs of maltreated infants and toddlers. The FIT Court team meets at least yearly with these community stakeholders to learn about available services, identify gaps in services, and discuss issues raised by the cases that members of the Court Team are monitoring.
- Targeting Infants and Toddlers in Out-of-Home Care: The Court Team focuses on foster care cases involving children younger than 36 months. Comprehensive developmental, medical, and mental health services are incorporated into the case plan document to ensure that the child's well-being is given primary consideration in the case.
- Placement and Concurrent Planning: The FIT Court uses concurrent planning, a technique that requires the quick identification of, and placement with, caregivers who are willing to become the child's permanent family if reunification becomes impossible.
- Team Meetings Monthly to Review Open Cases: Each month, the FIT Court team will meet to review open cases.
- Parent-Child Contact (visitation): The FIT Court team focuses on increasing visitation by expanding the opportunities (e.g. doctor's appointments) and the locations (e.g. the foster home, the birth parents' home) for parent-child contact.
- Continuum of Behavioral Health Services: The provision of behavioral health services to both children and parents, including child-parent psychotherapy, will be prioritized.
- Training: The FIT Court will facilitate training on topics such as: infant and toddler development; parenting interventions; services available to foster children in the community; trauma; substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, and poverty.
- Evaluation: The FIT Court will collect information and data evaluating the impact of the FIT Court.
- Participants may participate in special family therapy sessions.
- Participants may have a parent navigator assigned to help them.
- Participants may see their child more often than in a standard OCS case.
- The OCS caseworker only works with families in the FIT Court.
- Participants will have more contact with their OCS caseworker who will help guide participants through the steps of the case plan.
- Participants will have more opportunities to express themselves in court and in Family Team Meetings.
- The FIT Court Team will help create a case plan just for the needs of you and your child(ren).
- Participants may receive services quicker because of being in the FIT Court.
Court Hearings / Family Team Meetings
Judge Vanessa White presides over monthly court hearings in the Palmer Courthouse. These court hearings are open to the public. There are confidential requirements for CINA hearings, including those held in the FIT Court.
Family Team Meetings occur monthly in the Palmer State Office Building. Additional information and brochures are available by contacting the Project Coordinator.
435 South Denali Street
Palmer, AK 99645