A new Safe Baby Court is set to launch in Sumner County next month. It’ll be the 12th statewide.

The state’s first Safe Baby Court began in 2015 as a pilot in Davidson County. The program has expanded to include: Anderson, Coffee, Dickson, Grundy, Henry, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Madison, Rutherford and Stewart Counties, according to tn.gov.

A specialized court program for children up to three years of age, Safe Baby Court works to help parents regain custody of their children.

“There’s only a handful of them in the state and Sumner County was selected in this last budget cycle to begin (the program) here as well,” Sumner County CASA Court Liaison Laura Mueller said.

“It’s really just an effort to try to make a difference for those families who have little ones under three to try to stabilize things to hopefully keep those children out of foster care and to make changes for those families to be healthier and to not head down on a long path of DCS involvement.”

Though reunification of the family may be sought, achieving a safe, stable and permanent home for every child is paramount.

“We have a large population of children being removed from their parents due to alcohol and drug issues… we have a large population of children that their siblings have been a part of the system or even their parents have been a part of the system, just the cycle that happens in our county, and so we really hope to stop that,” Sumner County CASA Program Director Amy Koch said.

“We hope that this program will also be able to reach these families quickly and work them through the services that they may need and hopefully stop the cycle of abuse and neglect in our county.”

A team from Sumner County Juvenile Court and Sumner County Court Appointed Special Advocates will work to identify families’ needs in the program.

“(Safe Baby Court’s) really a more intensive program for families … who come before the court to really try to wrap them in services and stabilize that family because that zero to three developmental stage is so important,” Mueller said.

As they look ahead to the program’s launch, reaching permanency faster is just one goal the organization hopes to achieve, as some cases stall due to varying obstacles.

“The system of DCS, the system of foster care and the system of Juvenile Court, they say, “it’s a marathon not a race”, it’s slow and steady but sometimes the children do linger, they linger either in foster care or they linger with relatives and not with their family because of a lot of different obstacles…,” Koch said.

“And so, we hope that this program would truly make it that in twelve months that child is in permanency, whatever permanency that may be.”

For those interested in the program or looking for ways to help, consider becoming a Sumner County CASA volunteer or donating diapers and baby wipes for temporary child placement.

“Diapers and wipes are not covered by food stamps, a lot of people don’t realize that, and they’re not covered with any assistance and so, that’s going to be (an ongoing) need,” Koch said.